THFI Project shortlisted for Welsh Housing Award
Wish us luck!
The innovative pilot between the Wales Co-operative Centre’s Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion (THFI) Project, Caerphilly Council, Smart Money Credit Union, private landlords and their tenants, has been shortlisted for the Chartered Institute of Housing 2013 Welsh Housing Awards, Innovation of the year category.
The primary focus has been to promote the use of Credit Union rent accounts to tenants in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) who were vulnerable due to rent arrears and or financially excluded. Utilising the skills and expertise from the public, private and third sectors to enhance the activities undertaken by the PRS liaison officer (funded by Welsh Government section 180). To develop, deliver and influence (in partnership) a step change to engaging with both PRS landlords and tenants.
Q. Why we did it?
A. Because the number of people living in poverty is increasing and we are starting to see the early impacts of the Welfare Reforms, in-particular the bedroom tax and the benefits cap. This, along with imminent changes to housing legislation is creating an increased demand for properties in the PRS. Recent research by Sliced Bread Consulting and the Oak Foundation has also highlighted the lack of support for tenants in the PRS.
Q. What we did?
A. We developed and delivered a pilot project that tested a person centred approach to financial inclusion for both landlords and tenants in the PRS. We assisted tenants prior to the introduction of Universal Credit to open appropriate transactional financial facilities, and assessed their current circumstances to identify wider support needs whether financial or other and signposting accordingly. By developing an in-depth questionnaire that mirrored the Supporting People outcomes to better understand tenant’s behaviours towards money and financial products. Staff have been trained as verifiers for Welsh Water Assist and we established a referral process between the Housing Benefit team and the strategic housing functions.
Q. What has made this pilot a success?
A. Being developed in partnership, commitment from the onset and agreeing joint objectives, whilst understanding limitations. Using initiative – not being afraid to try different approaches to overcome barriers and the willingness to learn and change.
Tenants now have transactional financial facilities and are better prepared for Universal Credit . The reduced risk of arrears and subsequent evictions means less homeless presentations and demand on already stretched publicly funded services, whilst supporting the development of a better PRS.
Lindsay Rowlands LAW accredited Landlord, commented: “Having been a landlord for many years and experienced various changes in the benefit system. I feel the services of the credit union give the tenant a degree of independence, but also gave the landlord an element of security. I am encouraging tenants to use the credit unions to help them budget with the introduction of Universal Credit being imminent and to maintain good relationships with tenants and encouraging sustainable tenancies.”
This is a great example of a co-operative model of intervention that has supported PRS tenants to become financially included, and, better able to access appropriate and responsible financial products, further negating the need to use payday or illegal money lenders.