Guiding hundreds of people each week, this highly-skilled team is trained to help with benefit claims, ensuring that all of our customers understand the system and don’t miss out on any entitled allowances – helping with online applications and providing support via phone and email. This ensures we can provide support across the country without being geographically tied to one area.
Helping people to stay in their homes
In the last financial year, 899 referrals have been made to this vital team, generating an income of £321,841.00 for our customers – money they sometimes did not know they were entitled to.
It’s helped customers navigate what can at times; be a complicated benefits system, helping them to pay their rent and most importantly – stay in their homes.
“Being part of the Money Advice Team is very challenging but extremely rewarding at the same time,” explains Places for People’s Money Advice Team Leader, Peter Whittington. “As a team, we often have to react to ever changing priorities but we always have one eye on future benefit changes that we know will affect our customers. – This allows us to offer customers foresight and the chance to apply for benefits in advance, preventing any financial woes before they happen.”
Peter adds that his team’s expertise goes well beyond purely benefit advice: “We provide advice and support around rent related benefits such as Universal Credit, Housing Benefit and Discretionary Housing Payment. We can assist with applications and advocate on customer’s behalf’s in complex cases. Where other financial issues are present, such as debt or utility arrears, we assist by signposting to specialist agencies’
“We have a wide spectrum of customers from young adults in financial difficulty to elderly customers who are struggling alone or have taken on the role of carer for an unwell partner. Whatever the situation, we try our utmost to find a solution that improves their financial wellbeing.”
One customer benefitted from the service following a transition from Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Housing Benefit to Universal Credit (UC) that did not go as planned.
Explaining the situation, the customer advised: “The delays in sorting out my claim meant I was behind financially, that in turn resulted in very significant arrears on my rent account with Places for People. The mistake took about six months to resolve, subsequently taking its toll on my mental health as I spent hours on the phone to the benefits department, writing emails and filling in forms almost every day – doing anything I could to get it sorted.
“It’s fair to say that during that time I received very little useful support from my local council and the benefits department itself. I was dismissed, passed around and told it was my fault.
“The real help and care came from my Places for People Money Advisor. As soon as I was put in touch with them, I felt that they genuinely cared about understanding the circumstances and also my mental health.
“My Money Advisor’s support and care surprised me greatly – not least because my struggle with the benefits department had prevented me from paying Places for People their rent! At no time however did he take a critical position – instead he worked hard and tirelessly to resolve my situation, helping me through the stress of it all. He remained a reliable, professional and compassionate supporter throughout.”
As well as telephone support, the Money Advisor also helped the customer draft emails and letters to the benefits department and the council, contacting numerous people and putting permitted arrangements in place on the customer’s behalf. “This was hugely helpful given the deteriorating state of my mental health,” the customer continued. “My advisor also collaborated with colleagues within Places for People to help others understand the situation – and he advised me how to conduct myself to achieve the result we were both looking for, including advice about what to expect in court. He even took the time to find the relevant technical UC regulations because he believed I was receiving the incorrect amount.
“He sent me an email with the relevant regulations and suggested I paste it into my UC journal. I did this and it resulted in a significant increase to my UC entitlement and a lump sum ‘special’ payment. This is obviously good for me but also good for Places for People because it helps me to maintain a healthy rent account. This UC payment increase simply would not have happened without my advisor going above and beyond to help me.
“Thanks to my advisor I am still in my own home, and my mental health remained strong enough to deal with the strain caused by the whole ordeal. I am very grateful to Places for People for the patience I was shown, but I feel especially grateful for the individual advisor’s help.”
Complexities within an ever changing benefits system
This is not a standalone case and The Money Advice Team regularly assist customers in similar situations. Peter concludes: “Places for People invests in its staff, so it means my team can stay at the top of its game, ensuring that the advice we offer to customers is always pertinent and up to date.
“We do some great work and it’s important that we have the foresight to help our customers, easing the financial burden and the impact it can have on their day to day lives."