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Energy bill and bedroom tax-besieged tenants get £500,000 boost from landlord

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Energy bill and bedroom tax-besieged tenants get £500,000 boost from landlord

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Finance

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Tenants struggling to cope with the government's raft of changes to the benefits system and rising energy bills are more than £500,000 better off thanks to their social landlord.

Contour Homes, which manages more than 12,000 properties across the North West, has been working with families to secure them cheaper gas and electricity, and helping them to access benefits they are entitled to but haven’t been claiming.

In less than a year, Contour’s revenue services team has helped tenants to:

• Access £377,799 in benefits they were eligible for but had not been receiving.

• Helped 79 households hit by the bedroom tax to secure £48,886 in discretionary housing payments (DHPs).

• Helped residents save more than £14,800 by switching to more affordable gas and electricity tariffs.

• Visited more than 1,180 tenants to offer advice and information about benefits changes.

• Provided six tenants with free representation at benefit appeal tribunals.

Tenant Marilyn Fedor is £6,900 better off after financial inclusion officer Vikki Starling offered her a range of benefits and money advice.

The part-time cleaner lost around £60 a week when her hours at work were reduced. She was also hit by the bedroom tax because she has one spare room in the flat she has lived in since 1999.

Ms Fedor said: “Vikki has been a godsend. Thank goodness there are people like her around. I’m so grateful for all the help and I don’t know how I would have coped without it.”

Ms Starling supported the 61-year-old to successfully apply to the council for a DHP, as well as secure funding towards her electricity debts; helped her to apply for a warm home grant; and resolved problems with her housing benefit payments.

Ann Walton, revenue services manager at Contour Homes, said providing support to tenants was crucial at a time when many are under more financial pressure than ever before.

She added: “Our customers, including those who are struggling to make ends meet in low-paid jobs, are being squeezed by the government’s benefit changes and rising gas and electricity prices.

“Other issues like zero-hours contracts and the cost of food mean that some people are so short of money they are choosing between things like heating their homes and feeding their families.

“We want to do everything we can to support our customers if they are struggling with money. Some tenants may still not realise that we can provide this kind of support, but cases like Marilyn’s go to show what a difference it can make.

“We’d urge any of our customers who need help or advice to contact us.”

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