How our Tenancy Support Service has helped Shane through the difficulties of 2020

Shane was first referred to The Benjamin Foundation in May 2019 for support through the Rent Deposit Scheme. After moving to Norfolk in 2017, he encountered a year of unstable housing, moving between friends and family, none of which worked out through no fault of his own. His place of work offered him accommodation for a short period of time, while he looked for somewhere safe and stable to live. It was a struggle for Shane to find the upfront costs of moving into a rental property and a Landlord to accept him, but with the help of the Rent Deposit Scheme he finally moved into accommodation a short while later.

Everything was going well until the Covid pandemic. Shane lost his job during the first lockdown; an additional challenge at an already difficult time and it was at this point, in September 2020, that he got back in touch with The Benjamin Foundation to seek advice and support.

We were pleased that we were able to help Shane through our new Tenancy Support Service. With no job, Shane had no income. He was now struggling with getting to grips with the benefits system, resulting in him falling into rent arrears of £2,000, eviction was imminent and Shane had no way to pay his bills, but we knew with the right support, advice and guidance he could get back on track.

Shane was put in touch with Emma* a Tenancy Support Worker at The Benjamin Foundation and together they were able to locate and discuss his Universal Credit claim with the Manager at his local branch. After experiencing difficulties with his account for several weeks, this support from the branch was so welcome and meant the process of resolving the issues could begin.

In the meantime, we were able to keep his Landlord updated and Emma suggested that Shane completed a Universal Credit ‘Landlord Portal’ online to enable the Landlord to be paid directly from Universal Credit payments. She spent time with Shane showing him how to update his journal and the information he needed to add to the portal when job searching.

It was a wonderful moment when Shane’s Universal Credit issues were resolved and his claim was reactivated. Not only was he paid his entitlement but this was backdated to his first claim period and he was able to pay £1,500 to his Landlord. He was still missing two rent payments, totalling £720 from his Universal Credit claim. This was chased by Shane and Emma and just one week later he received the full amount, which he paid to his Landlord.  In this short time, his rent arrears had gone from £2,400 to in credit by £180. Shane then set up a direct debt to pay his top-up rent.

Shane had also incurred Council Tax debt, so Emma discussed this outstanding bill with the local authority. They advised that Shane’s case was actually heading to court, but they were extremely understanding of the situation and advised they would put a stop on this as contact had been made and steps were being taken to resolve this. They advised applying for the Council Tax benefit, which Emma organised for Shane. Initially the Council Tax team advised that Shane would need to make monthly payments of £193, but he was unable to afford this so everyone worked together to make a claim for Council Tax benefit. The result was that a special arrangements order was completed, which would reduce his monthly payments to £21.

Next to resolve was Shane’s energy bills. After incurring £801 of energy debt, Shane was shocked to discover his usage was £101 per month. Again, his energy supplier was understanding and they discussed and agreed a cheaper tariff, which would work for Shane as his finances began to take shape.

Shane is extremely happy with the support he has received from Emma, describing her as “a superhero” and we were really happy help him and get him back on track for a brighter future.

*Names have been changed.

For more information about the Tenancy Support Services, please click here.

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