Member Article

35% increase in Universal Credit claims says Grŵp Cynefin housing association

A key housing service in North Wales is reporting a 35% increase in Universal Credit claims by its tenants, since Covid19 restrictions were introduced in Wales.

Grŵp Cynefin housing association, that works across north Wales and north Powys says the increase is a direct result of the impact Covid19 has had on the economy.

Rhiannon Dafydd, Grŵp Cynefin’s housing manager explains: “What we’ve seen in the last few weeks, is the impact Covid19 is having on our tenants. Our welfare rights advice team have been working hard to support families who are struggling due to sudden job redundancies, shielding issues and childcare problems.

“All these issues have a direct effect on the household income, and it becomes a worrying time for our tenants. We have a team of skilled and professional staff who specialise in offering support and advice on accessing a range of financial and support services available to them.

“By working with our tenants early on, we deter more long-term issues with rent arrears, debt management and tenancy agreement issues.

Tenant, Jessica Bartrop from Botwnnog in Gwynedd recently found herself in difficulties when the Coronavirus restrictions hit north Wales. A mother of two young girls, Jessica, who lives at a Grŵp Cynefin property in Botwnnog, was unable to work due to the Welsh Government announcement that schools were to close and additional guidance on childcare for asthmatic children.

“I am firstly and foremost the sole carer for my children and was unable to place the girls in childcare to go to work, due to the Covid19 risks surrounding people with asthma. I was not awarded statutory sick pay and was advised by my employer that I was to take ‘unauthorised absence’ from work.

“Thankfully a Grŵp Cynefin welfare officer, Verity Smith, stepped in, and for two months, she has worked with me to advise, guide and support me through this difficult financial period. She has been on the phone every other week and offered a lot of reassurance and welfare support for my own well-being too. I cannot thank her enough.

Verity advised Jessica how to access Universal Credit, free school meals and a reduction in the Council Tax. She supported Jessica to make a successful application for discretionary housing payment (DHP) from her local authority because she was negatively affected by the Bedroom Tax policy. Verity also assisted Jessica in confirming with her employer that her job was secure and that she would be allowed unpaid leave due to caring for a dependent.

Rhiannon Dafydd continued: “The team advise people during all kinds of hardship and crisis. From benefit claims, support in accessing services, emergency grants and energy costs. Some people have lost their jobs overnight, and it leaves people vulnerable and unable to cope with the volume of tasks needed to carry out before the next rent payment is due.

Welfare officer, Verity Smith, who advises Grŵp Cynefin tenants said: “Discussing options and offering a reassuring chat that someone is on the right track, is sometimes enough.

“We are available by phone, email, ‘Live Chat’ or via Facebook messages and we’re able to access all our systems whilst working from home. There’s no need for anyone to suffer in silence, we’re close by and able to offer a real helping hand.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Alice Lee .

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