HAs have an increasing responsibility to support customers with financial worries

As Universal Credit rolls out across the UK, benefits are squeezed, and the cost of living continues to rise, more and more social housing customers are feeling the pinch.

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Team this with the fact that foodbank use last year was reported to be at an all time high, and it’s clear that something has got to give.

At Equity Housing Group, we’re of the opinion that Housing Associations have a responsibility to help their customers with any financial concerns.

In the past year, 207 of our customers here at Equity Housing Group have accessed free money advice through our in-house specialists.

This is up from 154 in 2016/17 and 164 in 2015/16 – giving a stark view of the increasing number of people needing help.

The three most common things our customers are seeking help on an ongoing basis are foodbank vouchers, paying council tax bills, and ESA assessments, with the average monthly saving of each customer using the service being £112.56.

We want more people living in social housing to know that speaking up and asking for help when it comes to money is neither embarrassing, nor weak.

Throughout June we’ve been running a dedicated Money Advice Month for our customers, in which they’ve been able to access free support through Q&As, budgeting sessions and interactive live sessions with our money advice team.

Whilst this support is available all year round, we wanted to encourage both our customers and the general public to talk about money issues and not keep them bottled up.

As part of our efforts, we ran a Facebook Live session, recognising the fact that a number of our customers use Facebook as a key communication channel.

Over the 90-minute session we invited both customers and the general public to submit questions around anything to do with money.

We answered over 35 questions from around 20 customers in total over the course of the session, where we were asked a number of questions around a range of subjects, including consolidation of pre-existing debts, saving for a house, bedroom tax, finding the best deals on energy bills and how to access foodbanks.

We’re always looking for new ways to engage with our customers and would encourage other HAs to do the same.

Here at Equity, we have invested in a dedicated money advice team in order to do this, which includes a qualified debt advisor who has the power to clear debts for our customers, rather than simply giving advice.

The sad truth is that financial burdens only look set to get worse as austerity continues and budgets are squeezed tighter, so associations must have a plan in place to address this and ensure customers are supported fully.

 

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