Army of staff push benefits message


Staff visit thousands of tenants to help them cope with welfare changes

Neighbourhood investor Plus Dane Group is going door-to-door to thousands of tenants as part of a push to help them prepare for the Government’s changes to benefit payments.

Tens of thousands of people across Merseyside and Cheshire will see living standards fall and the danger of homelessness increase when the Government’s welfare reforms begin in earnest this spring.

Plus Dane begins the mammoth task this week of visiting tenants to give them advice and support on a coming raft of cuts to benefits, and changes in the way they are claimed and paid.

Future changes include people being penalised for ‘under-occupancy’ of their homes; new benefits for people with disabilities; and the introduction of a single universal credit payment to replace existing benefits.

More than 600 Plus Dane employees, from all areas of the business, will be knocking on doors this month to warn almost 3,000 tenants who will be affected by new occupancy rules – known as The Bedroom Tax. These come into effect in April 2013 and will affect individuals and families not deemed to be making full use of every room in their house.・@

People receiving housing benefit will see a cut set at 14% of rent for one extra bedroom and 25% of rent for two or more extra bedrooms.・@The strict criteria also stipulate that two children of the same gender should share a room up until one of them is 16 years old and that two children of different genders should share until one is 10.

The change will affect 660,000 social housing tenants of working age in the UK, including 110,000 families in the North West.・@

The majority of these people have just one extra bedroom. The Government’s impact assessment shows that those affected will lose an average of £14 a week.

Chief executive Ken Perry launched Plus Dane’s Big Benefit Shake Up campaign in this week with a stark warning.

"Many people just do not realise just how deep these cuts are," Mr Perry said.

"We feel we cannot wait for these changes to come in before we take action, so every member of staff is being trained to go out into the streets to explain what’s coming and make sure people prepare budgets, claim their full entitlements and continue paying their rent."

Mr Perry pledged that Plus Dane would do all it could to help tenants who struggle to pay rent under the new system of universal credit which forces people to claim all their benefits on-line and puts the onus on individuals to sort out their own housing payments rather than the present system which is paid to landlords direct.

"Many will struggle with this," Mr Perry admitted. "All housing associations face the horrible prospect of having to evict people and families, so Plus Dane is putting into place huge resources to help people who want to pay but can’t, including specialist financial inclusion teams and partnerships with other expert organisations.

"It is vital people continue to pay their rent when the changes begin to come in, we will do all we can to help."