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Helpline launched for Welfare Reform

South Staffordshire Housing Association (SSHA) has set up a helpline for people who need support, or want to find out how they may be affected by the government’s changes to the welfare benefit system.

Since April 1, the way people receive benefits has changed and there are more changes still to come. SSHA is advising people to be aware of the changes and to contact the helpline for information about how they could affected.

Jan Goode, director of customer services at SSHA, said: “We know that the changes to the benefit system are having huge impacts on our residents and we want people to know what help is available.

“We have put services in place to make sure that residents can access the necessary support and advice that they need to.”

The changes include a limit on how much benefits people receive, a ‘Bedroom Tax’ for families of working age who are under-occupying their homes. The Bedroom Tax means people deemed to have ‘extra’ bedrooms have their Housing Benefit reduced and have to pay the shortfall in their rent.

SSHA, which manages around 6,000 affordable homes in the district, has services and support available to help people manage the changes.

Its income management team is helping people manage and budget their finances, set up bank accounts, and access benefit information.

To help families being affected by the Bedroom Tax SSHA’s housing services coordinator supports people needing to move to a smaller property, and to consider their options.

One person to be helped to move to a smaller property is Les Wright, who SSHA’s housing services coordinator helped to move from a three-bedroom house to a one-bedroom bungalow so he didn’t have to pay more rent for his two ‘spare’ rooms.

Mr Wright, aged 55, said: “I was going to have to pay an extra £60 each month and being unemployed I couldn’t afford that. I loved my house but it was too big for me.

“I can’t praise the work of SSHA enough. They were so helpful and didn’t force the issue. They never said I had to move but they told me what my choices were and I made the decision.”

To help unemployed people looking for training and employment opportunities SSHA’s work and skills officer is supporting people with job searching, CV writing, completing application forms and honing interview skills.

Jan added: “We want to ensure that our residents have the confidence and security to maintain their tenancies. There is a risk that if people are unable to budget their finances under Universal Credit and miss their rent payments that they could face eviction. This is always the last case scenario for us so we want to give them all the support we can so they are prepared for the changes.”

To contact the helpline please call 01785 312215, or for more information visit www.ssha.co.uk