Swansea partnership supports Credit Union Rent Account scheme
It’s Co-operatives Fortnight and Co-operative Congress is only 48 hours away! It’s timely, therefore, to remember the role that credit unions play as community finance co-operatives. Our ‘Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion’ project has been supporting a scheme that involves Swansea Council and the local credit union, offering customers a rent account, that will help people to manage their money in the face of challenges from Welfare Reform. Swansea Council has provided the following update…
The introduction of Universal Credit (UC) in October 2013 will mean that thousands of council tenants, who currently have their Housing Benefit paid directly into their Council Rent account, will have to manage paying their rent instead. Credit Unions have widely been promoted by the Government as a good way of supporting tenants through Welfare Reforms to manage their finances and ensure that their rent is paid.
Swansea Council has therefore joined up with Loans and Savings Abertawe (LASA) Credit Union to offer a scheme to support its tenants to pay their rent. The scheme also focuses on identifying and supporting tenants who may be facing financial difficulties as a result of Welfare Reform.
The scheme was initially developed to support tenants with the transition to direct rent payments under Universal Credit, however it was agreed that the scheme could also be used to support tenants affected by the introduction of the under-occupation rules which came into effect in April this year.
Since April, officers within the Rents Team have been working with new tenants at sign up to determine if this scheme is suitable for them. A special application pack has also been developed to explain the scheme and ensure that they understand how it will operate. This has included discussions with tenants who are affected by the under-occupations charge and who may be facing financial difficulties. The scheme has also been marketed in Open House, the newsletter for council tenants.
Whilst there has been some interest in the scheme to date, it is still early in terms of tenants adjusting to making the under-occupation shortfall payments. It is anticipated that as tenants assess their ability to manage the shortfall over the coming months, they may consider the CU rent account as an option. It is further anticipated that by growing the scheme slowly and working with the Credit Union to develop capacity, it will be ready to support those tenants, who in far greater numbers, will be affected by the roll out of Universal Credit.
Tomorrow (June 27th), Jocelle Lovell and Paul White of the Wales Co-operative Centre’s ‘Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion’ (THFI) team will be running a fringe seminar at the Shelter Cymru conference ‘People & Homes 2013’ that is being held at the Swansea Marriott. For more details on their work, including the ‘THFI toolkit’ visit the Wales Co-operative Centre website.