A housing association has claimed its free advice services have helped thousands of its residents generate an additional income of more than £9.8 million.
National operator Hanover, which provides retirement and extra care schemes for the over-55s and has over 10,150 properties across the North of England, was one of the first housing providers to have a dedicated financial wellbeing advice service for residents, also offering energy saving solutions and guidance on essential benefits.
Since beginning in 2012, the organisation claims its Be Wise team has taken a proactive approach to supporting residents. Along with expert financial rights and energy advisers, the team helps older residents to gain access to life-changing home adaptation packages and provides help that allows residents to get online and to use the internet safely.
The financial rights and energy advisors have improved the income of more than 900 residents by an average of some £4,120 per year, it says. This additional income has had a significant impact and can enable residents to live independently for longer in their homes.
So far more than 230 Be Wise events have been held at estates nationally to raise awareness of financial rights, savings from switching energy companies and to provide guidance on how to increase incomes.
In one case, a resident had been advised by his local authority to contact the Department for Work & Pensions and request that his housing cost details be provided as part of a Universal Credit claim. Unfortunately this left him worse off, but the Be Wise team was able to correct the errors, help the resident to successfully challenge the ruling and also assist with the take up of Personal Independence Payments. This means he is actually now better off by over £330 per week, or around £17,000 per year.
“We are rightly proud to have assisted residents with their budgeting and savings, helping to deliver an amazing £9.8 million so far. This shows Hanover’s commitment to improving the overall wellbeing of residents and helps ensure we go above and beyond just a bricks and mortar level of service,” said Cressida Stanley-Williams, Hanover’s service development manager.
“Be Wise continues to achieve great success in offering tangible changes and provides additional security for many residents who want to continue living as independently as possible in their homes. Anything we can do to help them achieve that is a reward in itself, especially if it allows them to remain connected to their local community.”
According to the charity Independent Age, nearly one million people aged over 75 live in poverty and need more help. The benefits system in the UK is complicated and many over 55s do not think that they are entitled to extra help nor do they want the stigma of applying, for example, millions of pounds in Pension Credit goes unclaimed.
Despite the rise of silver surfers, digital use is lowest across the UK among over 75s. According to the Office for National Statistics, 2.8 million people aged 75+ have never used the internet. Hanover has assisted residents to gain digital access in several different ways, helping them to save time and money, as well as improving their well-being.