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Housing group calls the Samaritans as welfare reforms take their toll

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Housing group calls the Samaritans as welfare reforms take their toll

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Bill Payments, Central Government

Housing group calls the Samaritans as welfare reforms take their toll Housing group calls the Samaritans as welfare reforms take their toll

Housing group Riverside has enlisted the help of the Samaritans to train its customer service centre staff after an alarming jump in the number of calls from distressed tenants.

The Liverpool-based social housing provider said welfare reforms such as the bedroom tax along with other austerity measures had led to an increase in the number of callers expressing suicidal thoughts.

Staff at Riverside's head office in Speke raised concerns about how to handle these emotionally challenging conversations, and following workplace training from the Samaritans, they are now equipped with the skills and confidence to talk to those at risk of suicide.

Anna Bishop, Riverside’s director of customer service, said: “As austerity measures continue to affect many social housing tenants, we are finding more and more people literally at the end of their tether.

"Job losses, cuts in benefits and homelessness are just some of the issues that are leading people towards feelings of desperation so severe, that they are sharing suicidal feelings with our staff.”

Riverside said the recent case of the woman who blamed the bedroom tax for her death has highlighted the issue of how money worries may contribute to suicidal feelings.

Rachel Kirby-Rider, Samaritans’ executive director of fundraising and communications, said: “Many of Riverside’s callers are vulnerable, and it’s to the credit of the organisation that they’re making a real effort to provide these people with the support they need. Riverside is one of the few housing associations providing this training for their staff.

"Samaritans has 60 years of experience in dealing with those unable to cope and we’re glad to be able to help Riverside provide a better service.”

Riverside’s team of money advisors, set up to help people maximise their income and mitigate against the bedroom tax, is set to take up similar training from the Samaritans.

Anna Bishop added: “Our customer service centre colleagues now have a greater understanding of how to manage crucial conversations with people in severe distress. They are also being encouraged to speak to the Samaritans directly if they need support after taking this type of distressing call.”

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