Agenda item

Bernesali Homes - Cost of living and resident support - Tracey Powers, Tenant First Service Manager (Sac.17.02.2023/4)


Tracey Powers, Tenant First Service Manager and Sharon Laister were welcomed to the meeting.


Members were provided with an overview of the work being undertaken by the Tenants First Service.  A leaflet was handed to members, which was also being handed out to tenants, containing comprehensive details of the work covered by 5 specialist area teams which included:


·         Family Intervention

·         Financial Tenancy Support

·         Housing Coaches

·         Employment and Training Support

·         Mental Health Housing Support


Members were informed that the Financial Tenancy Support Team had seen a significant increase in demand due to the cost of living crisis.  Support for those experiencing severe financial hardship was provided through the Berneslai Homes Hardship Fund and Housing Support Grants.  Letters of support had been sent out to around 1050 tenants who were already in rent arrears, to inform them of the help available in advance of the impending rent increase.  Additional grant funding had been secured from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, Poverty vs Neglect, which had aided in providing tenants with hygiene packs, white goods, hoover and cleaning materials. 


It was reported that there were 6 Tenant Support Officers that were champions in different areas in order to provide specialised support, including, Universal Credit, Energy, Yorkshire Water, Food and Clothing and Cost of Living Champions.  A dedicated Citizen’s Advice Bureau Adviser was also on hand to help with debt advice.  The Champions were able to help with an array of issues including energy vouchers, grants to have arrears written off, lower bills for water and help to cover parts of the rent due to bedroom tax.


Members queried as to whether there was a Pension Credit Champion to encourage older people to claim as a number of tenants would be eligible and not aware they could claim it, which in turn would open up a number of other benefits.  It was noted that there was not a specific Pensions Credit Champion as those roles were around information providing and not targeting specific tenants.  However, members were informed that this was something that would be taken away and looked into.


Queries were raised around tenants who were using pre-payment metres and not cashing in vouchers which were expiring.  In response members were informed that the Service were aware of this issue and work was being undertaken to provide some communication to support tenants around this issue. 


Members were interested to hear the demographics for the South Area of the types of problems the Team encountered, what types of families or ages presented the most with specific issues and whether these were more prevalent in certain areas than others.  Members were informed that there was no specific area data but that across the board single people with universal credit were the worst off as they did not have enough money to live off.  It was also highlighted that single men who only saw their children on weekends were often in need as they had to deal with bedroom tax. 


It was recognised that tenants of a pensionable age were the ones that would be least likely to come forward for help and assistance as opposed to those on benefits who would be the ones most likely to come forward.


Members raised concerns around the sending out of letters and leaflets and the possibility of these being ignored as opposed to going out and knocking on doors and speaking to people.  In response members were informed that the leaflets had been distributed across the Borough through a number of agencies and events and also to the wider Berneslai Homes staff, in order to be proactive in handing out leaflets when visiting properties for repairs or for other business.  Referrals were received from a variety of sources including Social Services, Housing Management Officers and the Benefits and Taxation Team. 


Concerns were raised that the leaflets had not been seen at Community Groups within the South Area, feedback would be provided in order to rectify this issue.   


RESOLVED that Tracey Powers and Sharon Laister from the Tenancy First Team be thanked for their presentation and continued hard work of all those involved in providing the service.

Supporting documents: