Riverside project in Cumbria helping older people tackle debt
Published by Riverside AMD for Riverside in Housing and also in Bill Payments, Communities, Health
Live Time Team L to R Judith Wilkinson, Judy Woof, Keith Harkness, Pat Harkness, Claire Tranter
Riverside's Live Time volunteers in Cumbria are give a helping hand to older people. As people get older they often have more time free time and so as they enter another period of their life they should have more time to live! This is not often the case, however, as people may face isolation or ill health increasingly they are also facing tough economic times and some risk losing their homes as they fall behind with their rent.
Judy Woof , Live Time Services Co-ordinator visits tenants over 60, identifying their needs and helping tenants to get the support they need to enable them to keep their tenancies. “Live Time is about working together with other agencies to get the very best services and support for older people, it is about the overall result for older people. Most importantly we involve older people throughout the project so that we provide what they want and need.”, she goes on to explain “Many of our older tenants are facing tough times, because of increasing bills for heating and electric and their income just doesn’t match their outgoings. People rarely seek external support .They choose whether to heat or eat. I visit our tenants struggling with tough economic times, identifying their needs, offer a visit from a Volunteer Benefit Adviser and make referrals to the Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP) home visiting service.
In the first year 65 tenants have secured benefits worth £45830 so far
One tenant told us “I failed my medical, following a re-assessment. Consequently my money and rent both stopped. I was getting in a mess and couldn’t sleep.
I’ve always been a proud working man and could see something was wrong.”
I was visited by Live Time, other home visits were arranged. I enjoyed being visited by a volunteer, it was easy to talk to another tenant, because they’re not official.
I started to feel better when I knew that something was happening. I was kept informed, communication was good and things have been sorted out. Now, I can treat myself, buy things and feel happy, having money in the bank”
The Live Time Volunteers, many of whom are of pension age themselves , have experience of issues other older tenants may be experiencing, know their visits can transform people’s lives by helping them get an increase in entitlements which improves their quality of life.
Don McKay, 81, is one of the volunteer benefit advisers , “I enjoy visiting people, because I want to ensure they are getting their entitlement. I enjoy their company”. Pat and Keith Harkness, who are also volunteers say ” We are on the same wavelength. Tenants find it easier to talk to tenant volunteers in the comfort of their own home.
This good work is dependent on partnership co-operation between Riverside and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
Because of the changes in Universal Credit, benefits frequently need re-assessed, and benefits can be withdrawn.
Judith Wilkinson, Partnership Manager for the Department of Work and Pensions says “Working with Live Time supports our objective of ensuring that harder to reach customers receive their full entitlements. We have seen numerous customers receive increased benefit entitlements where they qualify. I am more than happy to continue to support Live Time and look at ways in which we can improve and develop this in the future.”
Judy Woof concludes “ The value of Live Time, volunteers and the DWP, working together is considerable. We can support vulnerable tenants to claim the benefits they are entitled to, people who otherwise may not seek support elsewhere. When people are struggling to cope with finances everything can seem overwhelming and they do not always prioritise the most important payments such their rent. We know this project has helped tenants keep a roof over their heads.
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