Our rent arrears are at their lowest level ever as we vow to carry on helping tenants deal with the effects of benefit changes.
The arrears have fallen from 1.47% of our annual debit last year to 1.28% this year, meaning an additional income for PCH of more than £100,000.
We can use this extra money to improve the services we offer tenants.
It also puts us in the top quartile position compared to other housing associations.
Last year (April 2015 to March 2016), there were 3,762 households in rent arrears compared to 3,419 between April 2016 and March 2017.
This reduction is despite the fact that the effects of welfare reform are beginning to hit tenants.
The two main changes are the introduction of the Benefit Cap – the total amount of benefits that most people aged 16 to 64 can receive – and the extension of Universal Credit, which replaces a number of other benefits, including Jobseeker’s Allowance.
We currently have 94 tenants affected by the Benefit Cap compared to 17 a year ago. In the same period, the number of people receiving Universal Credit has risen from 36 to 142.
Nicky Kingston, Area Manager for Income Recovery and Financial Inclusion, said: “The team have worked extremely hard this year to achieve such fantastic results.
“This puts PCH in the best position for later in the year, when Universal Credit is rolled out fully in Plymouth this October.
“This will see the number of Universal Credit cases rise very quickly as it will not just be single people that will be affected but couples and families.
“We’ve helped lots of tenants throughout the year and we’ll continue to offer support to residents experiencing financial hardship or who are affected by welfare reform where it’s needed.”
One person we helped this year was a tenant who lost almost half her income after her daughter turned 20 and was no longer dependent.
Our Financial Inclusion Officer Darren Sims worked with her over a six-month period to help her get back on her feet.
Darren liaised with Jobcentre Plus to ensure the tenant and her daughter were getting the benefits they were entitled to and were therefore able to pay their rent.
Darren said: “I conducted nearly 30 phone calls and 11 home visits. With her support I also liaised with her GP for referral to Mount Gould for a learning disability assessment.”
The tenant said: “I’m so grateful to Darren. He gave 100 per cent and then some to get me help. I feel if I was really stuck and needed help I could text him.”
Sue Shaw, PCH Director of Homes and Neighbourhoods, said: “I’m delighted that we have yet again reduced the amount owing to us, even in a difficult economic climate.
“Our teams have shown real commitment to supporting tenants to pay their rent. PCH is about helping people to sustain their tenancies – we know how scarce good housing is.
“We treat each person and each case individually, and that care, respect and support has helped many tenants to free themselves from debt and all the stress and anxiety that accompanies it.”
If you want to talk to us about how we can help you with your rent, call us on 0808 230 6500.
Pictured: Members of our rents and finance team