Experts to help worried tenants manage their money ahead of benefits shake-up
A CITY housing provider has hired three debt prevention experts to support families who stand to lose money when the Government's controversial welfare reforms come into force.
From April, people in receipt of housing benefits, whose property has more bedrooms than are needed, will receive a reduced payment.
For those people with a spare bedroom, the housing benefit payment will automatically be reduced by 14% of the rent payable on the property.
Those with two or more spare bedrooms will see a reduction of 25%.
This will mean residents will have to make up the shortfall in rent themselves.
The only people who will not be affected by the changes are pensioners and those who live in a one-bed apartment or bedsit.
Meanwhile, the new "Universal Credit" will replace most existing benefits and limit the total amount of benefit claimants can receive.
Derwent Living said it was concerned families could fall into debt as they battle to cover the loss in income.
It has appointed Marcia Johnson, Vanessa Butterworth and Adrienne Griffin as debt prevention assistants. The trio will work alongside residents who may already be in arrears with their rent, or who may struggle with the new direct payment as a result of the changes.
Steve McDonough, housing director at Derwent Living, said: "We have always offered support to residents who may find they are struggling with rent arrears.
"Ahead of the changes, we have now stepped this activity up and have appointed the new assistants to ensure that people are fully prepared for the changes and how they will be affected. There are certain risks posed by the changes, particularly the new steps which will see housing benefit being paid directly to tenants rather than to landlords.
"As a result of these concerns, we want to reassure our residents that there is support available to ensure that they know how to manage their money or any debt they already have, as well as to help them understand how the changes will affect them."
Marcia, Adrienne and Vanessa have begun contacting tenants to discuss payment options and to make an affordable agreement to pay off arrears.
They are also helping people maximise income, claim benefits and manage debts. Where appropriate, they suggest other organisations which may be able to give further support.
The team will also visit customers at home to discuss any concerns about their rent account.
Derwent Living residents can contact the debt prevention assistants by calling Derby 346477 or by leaving a message on the income team hotline Derby 614 997.