We want our customers to talk to us when they’re in financial difficulty, and to let us help them. Customers must be confident that when they ask for help, we’ll respond empathetically. It’s vital that housing associations do more to ensure that those who need the most help feel able to reach out to them at the earliest opportunity.
It’s also important to provide easy access to information and support. So, while recognising that some customers won’t have access to the internet (or don’t have the skills to do so), providing digital tools to allow people to manage their rent account themselves, as well as online resources, is essential.
We know applying for UC can be complex and overwhelming. That’s why we developed the UC Helper, a free online tool to help people when applying for UC for the first time. The mobile-friendly UC Helper takes users through every step of an application, from creating an online UC account to making a claim, and what to expect when attending an interview.
Build financial resilience
Online resources and budgeting tools like our UC Helper empower customers so they can build confidence in themselves, and gain an understanding of how to manage finances and navigate the benefits system.
But financial resilience is not just about solving immediate money problems, it’s about supporting people, and building strong, safe and secure communities in which they live.
“‘Buy now, pay later’ schemes for certain goods, while very appealing, lock people in to high-interest debt for many years”
We’re also looking into bolstering our jobs and training offer, so that our customers hear directly from us about any new opportunities in their area, working in paid employment for our suppliers.
Advocate for credit unions
Short-term, high-interest payday loans are readily available to most. These lenders often use aggressive marketing tactics and take a very hard line when it comes to recovering the loan. It’s important that we advocate for alternative loan options, like credit unions, that are more affordable, lower interest and longer term.
We must also spread awareness about the dangers of these short-term, high-interest loans, which include illegal loan sharks that target low-income families. Likewise, ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes for certain goods, while very appealing, lock people in to high-interest debt for many years.
“Stigmatising and isolating social housing families will only add even more stress and anxiety and will tip the scales against them. People shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed about their financial situation”
Rent arrears among social tenants is a growing issue, and the stigma is undeserved. The cost of living crisis is, of course, exacerbating the problem on a national scale and financially vulnerable families are going to be hit the hardest.
However, stigmatising and isolating social housing families will only add even more stress and anxiety and will tip the scales against them. People shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed about their financial situation, and shouldn’t feel embarrassed about reaching out for help. Housing associations have a huge part to play, whether that’s partnering with credit unions, maximising outreach or investing in services and resources that can help their customers.
If we can stop the stigma, understand the root cause of these problems, and advocate for the right path forward, we can really make a difference.
Kerry Starling, director of communities and social impact, Hyde