Cheltenham Borough Homes secures
Cheltenham Borough Homes
Better Off Calculator
Despite handling the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic 2020 was a year of relative success for Cheltenham Borough Homes. The organisation secured over £1 million of additional benefits income for their tenants plus an extra £1 million of additional benefit support for other residents of Cheltenham.
Cheltenham Borough Homes had several customers at serious risk of possession proceeding due to high rent arrears and lack of engagement. They needed a tool that would explain benefit entitlement in a visual and simple way. They wanted a tool that could help them to more clearly identify the client’s problems, where money was going out and different ways of budgeting in the future. With a number of HMRC scams and loan sharks in operation the team was keen to identify possible victims so they could tackle this head-on.
On top of the significant increase of general enquiries from colleagues, external partners and customers, the Benefits and Money Advice Team saw their caseload increase by 152% since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Cheltenham Borough Homes had to manage this with significantly fewer team members.
Cheltenham Borough Homes was keen to use Policy in Practice’s Better Off Calculator due to its ease of use and helpful visuals that spoke to their clients clearly and effectively about complex benefits calculations.
The organisation designed and launched a new bus stop advert across 16 sites in Cheltenham to continue their work raising awareness of the risks of using a loan shark. This was particularly relevant considering the vulnerability of people newly unemployed or furloughed, especially in the run-up to Christmas.
Working with the residents in high rent arrears and not engaging, they continued to encourage engagement and identified very serious mental health crises. After considerable efforts to secure the appropriate professional help on their behalf, Cheltenham Borough Homes are incredibly proud to report that they have returned from hospital, maintained their tenancy, have cleared their arrears with backdated benefit awards and secured funds to clear utility debts.
Significant levels of trust were built with them before lockdown, reiterating the huge value that face to face welfare right support provides.
How Cheltenham Borough Homes use the Better Off Calculator to support tenants
Cheltenham Borough Homes has secured over £1 million of additional benefits income for tenants and a Benefits and Money Advice colleague is also securing an extra £1 million of additional benefit support for other residents of Cheltenham.
They continue to manage the crisis fund, ‘Help2’ and help tenants to replace broken household essentials such as white goods, thereby reducing the burden of debt that a loan would bring.
Finally, they partnered with John Lewis / Waitrose who supported them with Christmas hampers. Together they brought some Christmas cheer to households who have been working incredibly hard in 2020 to overcome significant challenges.
Use the Better Off Calculator as a triage system. For example, if someone starts to claim Universal Credit are they going to lose their tax credits? Will they be worse off in the long run? Use the calculator to identify people in the household who aren’t claiming and should be. This will save you a lot of time and help you see great results.
Grant Bailey, Benefits and Money Advice Team Leader, Cheltenham Borough Homes