A resident came to the attention of our Income Recovery team when debts started to accumulate on an account which had been in credit for some time.
Resident *Jenny had suffered with mental health issues at the beginning of year following some tragic news – which led to her being sectioned. This was when her financial difficulties started to get out of hand. Her family tried to cover her rent but struggled to keep up with the payments. Jenny had been in employment but was now on sickness leave. The Statutory Sick Pay she was trying to live off was insufficient leaving her reliant on food parcels. Eventually the doctors signed her off as ‘unfit for work’ which ended her employment.
With the account in such high rent arrears, the Income Recovery Team were having to advise Jenny of impending Court action, however with her clearly suffering health wise they referred her to Rachel, a Tenancy Sustainability Officer. Rachel felt confident that she could help Jenny to claim the benefits she was entitled to, which would prevent her from losing her home. It was agreed with the Income Recovery Team at the next Court hearing that they would adjourn the case whilst the benefit applications were pending.
With Jenny’s mental health affecting her ability to complete and submit applications, Rachel got in touch with Housing Benefit on her behalf. It transpired that Housing Benefit still believed that Jenny was in employment, meaning they wouldn’t pay out. They requested evidence that would confirm she was no longer working. Rachel contacted Jenny’s employer on numerous occasions but had difficulty obtaining the documentation she needed.
Eventually a P45 came through and this was sent to Housing Benefit to support the claim. Jenny contacted the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to submit a new claim for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) because at this point she had no income at all. Unfortunately, an error in the security check meant that the DWP instantly refused to process the claim but would send out a form for Jenny to complete.
The form didn’t arrive which left Jenny in a desperate financial situation, calling upon friends and family to help her with food and electricity. Rachel knew Jenny needed additional help and set up a meeting with the Citizens Advice Bureau to see if they could help her put pressure on the DWP to process an ESA claim over the telephone, as priority. This intervention was successful and ESA was quickly in payment. This payment also enabled Housing Benefit to process the claim and cover Jenny’s rent.
As the adjourned Court date came back around, the Income Recovery team used Rachel’s progress on the Housing Benefit payment application and evidence of the resident’s deteriorating mental health to defend Jenny’s case in Court. The Court agreed and Accent set up a manageable debt repayment of rent plus £5 per week for the arrears.
As soon as Housing Benefit was in payment, Rachel submitted a further application for Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) to address the shortfall in rent and other arrears that had accumulated when Jenny had no income. The DHP application was successful and the Local Authority agreed to cover the shortfall in Jenny’s rent for a period of 6 months and paid a one-off lump sum payment of £650 toward the arrears.
The debt has now significantly reduced and Jenny’s full rent is covered. Rachel is still in regular contact with Jenny, who has advised that she feels much better in herself now she no longer has to worry about losing her home.
*Name changed to protect resident’s identity