Welfare changes could hit us all hard.
The Government is undertaking the most radical welfare reform for a generation, seeking to cut the welfare bill and focus on encouraging people to take responsibility for their lives.
The changes could affect anyone who is on benefits – but for the moment it will not affect pensioners.
Two Rivers is very concerned about the impact these Government changes could have on its communities. The organisation exists to help and support local communities by providing them with affordable homes as the building block for their lives.
But the community organisation is very concerned that many residents could find their incomes under such pressure that they may find it hard to pay their rents.
Two Rivers rents are already only 60% of the market rate, and are lower than many other local housing associations. The Government has already indicated that it thinks our rents are too low, and it has set a target rent for Two Rivers to conform to.
Two Rivers doesn't make a profit and all rents are ploughed back into maintaining people's homes and building new homes for the next generation who can't afford to buy there own home in the community they love.
But if people can't pay their rents because of changes to welfare, then there is even less money to go into keeping the show on the road.
We are worried for our tenants and for future generations.
That's why we have appointed Rebecca James as a special Welfare and Debt Advisor to help people through the changes. You can contact her on 0800 316 0897 or e-mail her at Rebecca.firstname.lastname@example.org
We are holding free information events for tenants to help work through how the changes affect their own personal circumstances. To read more about this go to: http://www.tworivershousing.org.uk/index.cfm?UUID=A3DF485D-F346-0D38-024A945952B37333 .
The Bedroom Tax
Key to the Government's reforms is the introduction of a bedroom tax which came in from April 2013.
This means anyone under pensionable age on housing benefit who is living in a house that is regarded as too big for them ('under-occupying') will have their benefits cut.
The move affects thousands of people in affordable housing association homes. Two Rivers has over 350 households affected by the bedroom tax.
For more information on the bedroom tax and for examples of how it will affect some of our community click here.
Other Welfare Reform Changes Coming
- Merging all the benefits into one single individual payment – assessed by a remote centralised Government benefits team. This is called Universal Credit and will be introduced from October 2013.
- All payments will be made into a bank account. If you don't have one its time to get one set up.
- All claims must be made on the internet. No face to face or postal applications.
- Failure to inform the new Benefits Office of any changes in circumstances will be met with a £50 for each failure – cut from the single payment.
It's a really complex set of changes and every case will be different.
Whatever happens we will be here to help and support our residents through this.
Now is the time to ask questions and prepare. Please call us if you have any queries or concerns.
Here are some useful materials that can help you learn more about the changes:
· What you need to know. By the National Housing Federation.
· A Guide to Welfare Reform (A really good guide – thanks Orbit Housing!)
· The Governments official web pages - http://www.dwp.gov.uk/
· More detail and comment from the NHF: http://www.housing.org.uk/policy/social_inclusion_and_welfare/welfare_reform.aspx can you make this into a short link please
· If you are a carer try this link: http://www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice/focus-on/item/2479-welfare-reform-your-questions-answered
· Here's some good materials from a homeless campaign group: http://homeless.org.uk/Welfare_Reform_2012-13
Managing Your Money
The impact of all these changes could well put a real squeeze on your finances. The Government's idea is to make people more responsible for their own finances and housing benefit will be paid directly to you and not to Two Rivers.
With all your different benefits lumped into one payment into your bank account once a month you will have to make all the choices and decisions about paying your bills.
You need to start thinking now about ways you can save. This may sound annoying as most people try hard to make their money go a long way, but there are lots of things to think about:
· Are you getting what you are entitled to?
· Could you get cheaper energy or are you entitled to support?
· Are you making the most of every penny you spend – shopping to get the very best value?
www.turn2us.org.uk : Are a charity that helps people claim all the benefits they are entitled to, and tap into other grants and schemes that could help.
www.moneysavingexpert.com covers everything related to money and savings
http://www.payplan.com/debt-management-plans.php- Debt management free of charge and impartial
Warm Homes and Energy
The cost of heating and energy is continuing to rise. It has more than doubled in the last decade and this is putting increasing pressure on people, especially when household incomes have stagnated or in many cases shrunk.
Two Rivers is working hard to try to improve the energy efficiency of its homes. All our new houses are built to high environmental standards and save tenants up to 50% on their fuel bills.
While our homes are on average more energy efficient than others in the region or across the rest of the UK, energy costs are still a major problem for many people. Out in the countryside particularly, where homes are not connected to gas, heating can be an issue with electricity, oil and solid fuel systems all more expensive than gas.
For more advice on how to hat your home efficiently have look on the following website: http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/
Could you be eligible for the Government's warm home discount scheme?
You could qualify for the discount if you are:
- 80 or over and getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit
- under 80 and only getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (you won't qualify if you also get Saving Credit)
But even if you don't qualify some suppliers offer the discount to vulnerable people (eg, those on a low income). Each supplier has their own rules, so get in touch with your supplier.
DEBT – getting help and support
Even if you have done everything you can to reduce your costs and access all possible sources of support, if you get into debt, then you will need even more help to find a way through your difficulties.
The worst thing you can do if bury your head in the sand – the problems will only get worse.
Get in touch with our Rebecca James our Welfare and Debt. You can contact her on 0800 316 0897 or e-mail her at Rebecca.email@example.com
Here is another useful independent and confidential free service who can help:
LOAN SHARKS - WARNING
Don't be tempted by loan sharks or loan companies who advertise how easy it is to borrow money. That could make things a great deal worse.
If you have a loan but don't know how much you owe or you feel under threat if you are not able to make the repayments the chances are you are borrowing from an illegal money lender.
Don't try to deal with it on your own contact the Illegal Money Lending Team they are there to help you
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text 'loan shark + your message' to 60003
Log-on to www.direct.gov.uk/stoploansharks
Find the campaign on Facebook: www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject
Follow it on Twitter: www.twitter.com/loansharknews