Inside Housing – Insight – Energy Crisis: What housing associations are doing to help tenants and employees

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The country is in the middle of an energy crisis. Although Liz Truss, the new prime minister, announced a series of measures to try to ease the burden on household and industrial bills through caps and support for charities and public sector organizations, many are still facing unprecedented increases.

October’s £2,500 cap is still nearly double last year’s level.

With turbulence expected in the coming months, In the case spoke to UK housing associations about what they are doing to help their tenants and staff during the energy and livelihood crisis.

Increase in social budgets for struggling tenants

Housing associations already have social or hardship funds to help struggling tenants. However, in the current situation, many have chosen to increase these funds to meet the growing need for support.

G15 member Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing (MTVH) has increased its tenant welfare fund by 50% this year, from £405,000 to £608,000. Manningham Housing Association in Bradford doubled its municipal investment budget to £200,000, while Hexagon Housing Association in south-east London quintupled its welfare fund to £100,000.

In the last financial year, Network Homes increased its charitable giving from £44,000 to just over £70,000. Double (£140,000) is budgeted for the current year.

LiveWest, the major landlord in the South West, has allocated £850,000 this year to help address the challenges residents are facing.

The money will be used to lower rents for tenants living in less energy efficient houses and to add a specialist energy officer to the team of 24 tenant protection officers.

The social landlord is committing £360,000 to a new rental support fund to help people struggling to pay their utility bills and rent.

It also added £100,000 to its existing Crisis and Hardship Support Grant.

Hyde has allocated £50,000 from its Rent Relief Fund to set up a pilot scheme – the Energy Hardship Fund – to help tenants who have defaulted on their gas and electricity bills.

Peabody, which recently merged with Catalyst, has also increased its tenant hardship fund to reflect the increased need for assistance.

In total, G15 members have committed £5.8m to residents’ welfare/hardship/crisis funds, with increases ranging from 18% to 1,171%. One member maintained the same level of funding as last year.

Last year, London’s biggest landlords helped residents secure £43.95million in financial support such as: B. Social Security and emergency aid for fuel and food.

In addition, the members have provided 33,767 people with targeted advice, for example on the subject of debt.

Other support for residents

Social landlords have established other measures to help residents.

Some include making homes more energy efficient. Aster supplies tenants with energy-saving light bulbs, reflective films for radiators, window films and draft excluders.

Housing cooperatives advise already troubled tenants on debt and financial management.

However, Abri has increased the number of staff available to provide advice on these issues and who can help tenants access the benefits to which they are entitled.

Some landlords make extra “feel good calls” to their tenants to check on them during the colder winter months.

Peabody focuses on in-person or phone calls to older and more vulnerable tenants.

Clarion, the UK’s largest housing association, said it is proactively reaching out to residents most at risk of energy poverty and offering support and advice on how to access cost-effective energy efficiency measures wherever possible.

Hyde has set up an early intervention service to identify those most at risk before they start fighting.

People who are struggling to pay their bills often just don’t turn on the heat. In winter, this will be dangerous and possibly even fatal for some.

Network Homes tries to provide warm spaces for vulnerable residents during the winter months.

All of these stresses will inevitably impact on the mental health of residents.

In recognition of this, Network Homes’ newly formed mental health liaison team “will be on hand to support residents who are struggling to maintain their tenancy in this regard”.

support for employees

Renters aren’t the only people facing a cost of living crisis and rising energy bills. Housing association employees face the same challenges.

A spokesman for MTVH said its staff “are working tirelessly to support residents who are facing difficulties. However, we know that times are tough for many colleagues as well.”

Several landlords offer their employees additional support, e.g. B. Financial and psychological support.

Manningham is planning one-off payments to staff of around £300, while MTVH has backdated staff pay for this year to January 2022.

A common move among homebuilders, including MTVH, Peabody and Network Homes, is to hold meetings to advise employees on how to better manage their finances.

Abri operates an employee discount program that offers savings on groceries, clothing and electronics.

Michelle Dawson, Director of Housing and Community Investment at Abri, said: “We also offer colleagues advance and emergency loans on their salary and have an employee assistance program to provide confidential advice and support on issues such as financial pressures.”

She added that office workers can be flexible about when they come into the office to reduce their commute costs, or they can choose to work from an office if it helps with heating bills.

LiveWest launched a cost-of-living campaign for employees earlier this summer to help them access the housing association’s support offerings. The head office supplies the employees with warm food and drinks.

When they are financially strapped, people’s mental health can be significantly affected.

Your Homes Newcastle, ALMO has a Stress Awareness Policy to help managers identify the causes and symptoms of stress and provide advice on how to reduce it in the workplace.

Its health and well-being group has developed a number of initiatives, including a 24-hour employee support hotline and up to six confidential counseling sessions.

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