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    stockporthomes.org/documents/Making the most of your money/... stockporthomes.org/documents/Making the most of your money/... Document Transcript

    • STOCKPORT HOMES FINANCIAL INCLUSION STRATEGY SEPTEMBER 2008
    • Executive Summary • Financial exclusion is closely associated with low income and poverty, and an inability to access appropriate financial services to get out and stay out of poverty. • Research shows financial exclusion is widespread in Britain, especially amongst social housing residents. Stockport based research reinforces this trend, particularly in areas of deprivation where Stockport Homes manages properties. • Social housing landlords are well placed to tackle financial exclusion. Such work links closely to Stockport Homes' mission and aims, as well as national government agendas. • Stockport Homes' Financial Inclusion Strategy addresses maximising customer income, minimising customer debt and building financial capacity and awareness. The strategy includes details of Stockport Homes current work, and an action plan for future developments. • Maximising customer income includes: • benefits advice to maximise income from benefits • assisting customers to get into paid employment • encouraging customers to set up banking and savings accounts • encouraging customers to take out home insurance • assisting customers to make their homes as energy efficient as possible • Promoting recycling of unwanted goods to benefit those on low incomes • Minimising customer debt includes: • Preventing customer getting into debt and rent arrears • Providing customers with access to affordable credit • Providing customers with debt advice to help them to manage and reduce their debts effectively • Building financial capacity and awareness includes: • Improving numeracy and literacy for customers • Improving financial literacy for staff and customers • Working in partnership with other organisations to maximise impact • A comprehensive action plan complements the Strategy and is included at Appendix 1. 2
    • 1.0 What is Financial Inclusion? Summary • Financial exclusion is closely associated with low income and poverty, and an inability to access appropriate financial services to get out and stay out of poverty. • Research shows financial exclusion is widespread in Britain, especially amongst social housing residents. Stockport based research reinforces this trend, particularly in the areas of deprivation where Stockport Homes manages properties. • Financial inclusion is therefore about ensuring everyone has the opportunity to access the financial services products needed to participate fully in modern day society and the economy. • Social housing landlords are therefore well placed to tackle financial exclusion. Such work links closely to Stockport Homes' mission and aims, as well as national government agendas. 1.1 Financial exclusion is about poverty, and an inability to access appropriate financial services to get out and stay out of poverty. "Many people, particularly those living on low incomes, cannot access mainstream financial products such as bank accounts and low cost loans. This financial exclusion imposes real costs on individuals and their families - often the most vulnerable people in our society. It also has costs for the communities in which they live.1" 1.2 Households on low incomes are more likely to experience financial problems as they are not viewed as financially viable by banks and financial product retailers. Consequently, people in low income brackets experience difficulties opening bank accounts, obtaining affordable, manageable credit and have problems paying fuel bills. This limited financial capability can lead to spiralling debts as well as rent arrears. Those traditionally living in areas of deprivation are more likely to have limited access to welfare advice and may not have the skills and knowledge to maximise their income. All of the above can be exacerbated by poor literacy and numeracy skills, poor financial awareness and no or little budgeting skills. 1 Taken from http://www.financialinclusion-taskforce.org.uk/default.htm 3
    • 2.0 Why is financial inclusion important? Summary Financial exclusion impacts on Stockport Homes’ customers and day to day business, with clear links to its mission and aims. Elements associated with tackling Financial Inclusion can also be linked to the wider strategic objectives of Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council. There are also a number of external drivers from national Government and its quangos towards delivering financial inclusion. 2.1 Financial exclusion is an issue which can have an enormous impact on the communities that social landlords such as Stockport Homes work in, as well as affecting day-to-day business. The issues may not only impact on household income, they may also affect ability to afford basic necessities, create tensions within a household and potentially affect a person's health through the anxiety associated with debts. 2.2 Financial inclusion clearly links to all of Stockport Homes’ organisational aims: To make effective use of our resources; A significant amount of staff time across the organisation is spent dealing with the consequences of financial exclusion, including the work of the Housing Options, Resettlement, Customer Finance, Area Teams through arrears collection, legal action, evictions, abandoned properties, void costs etc. Tenants in arrears often have multiple debts2, and the rent arrears element of these may not be seen as a priority as compared to other, more visible, creditors such as door step lenders. To deliver high quality housing services that meet customers' needs and aspirations; National and local research strongly indicate Stockport Homes customers are likely to need debt and money advice but unlikely to know how to access this. Stockport Homes can contribute to meeting this need by working with partners and using good practice to expand services. 2 'Characteristics of families in debt and the nature of their indebtedness', Kempson and McKay, 2004 4
    • To deliver consistent, clear and well-publicised services to customers; Working with its partners to clearly signpost customers to sources of independent financial advice and affordable financial services is a key role for Stockport Homes. To provide appropriate support for the most vulnerable and socially excluded; Those on low incomes are by definition vulnerable, not only to accessing expensive sources of credit but also to failing to access appropriate banking services and advice to enable them to manage their money effectively. Stockport Homes does significant work already to assist vulnerable people and can further expand this to address the financial inclusion agenda. To make a real contribution to the Council's wider strategic and housing objectives. Helping to build social inclusion. Stockport Council’s main strategic aim is to create a 'Cleaner, Greener, Safer, Stronger' Stockport. The Stockport Plan 2007/10 details how this will be delivered. It is stated within this Plan that ‘we (Stockport Council) will contribute to consolidate work aimed at maximising the financial resources available to vulnerable adults and will develop a strategic response to financial inclusion’.3 There are several specific outcomes relating to Financial Inclusion detailed within the Stockport Council Plan to which Stockport Homes can contribute, namely: • Increasing Credit Union membership • Reducing the proportion of young people not in education, employment or training • Increasing the number of people over 60 years of age with new, adjusted or increased benefits claims. When Local Area Agreements are agreed in June 2008, it is likely financial inclusion will feature as a key priority. Likewise, in the draft Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy 'improved economic well-being for local people' is a key objective. Concentrations of households vulnerable to financial exclusion is not conducive to community stability, as tenancies are less likely to be sustainable and less money will be available in the area. By tackling financial exclusion, Stockport Homes will be contributing to the longer term future of neighbourhoods in the borough. 2.3 On a national level, the Government has been developing its financial inclusion strategy since 2003. A Financial Inclusion Task Force has 3 The Stockport Council Plan 2007-2010, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 5
    • been set up, with the aim of increasing the supply of affordable financial products. 2.4 Additionally, increasing awareness of the services available has been an important focus. In 2007 the Government launched ‘Now Let’s Talk Money’ – a campaign which aims to help people on low incomes access services and advice to help them to maximise their income. The Government also has also set up a Financial Inclusion Fund of over £120 million to be spent from 2008-11, through which the ‘Now Let’s Talk Money’ campaign is funded. 2.5 There is a strong link between financial inclusion and worklessness (see also section 4.2.2). The Hills Review (2007) recognised that the operation of the social housing sector is structured in such a way that it should act as a potential work incentive. The security and sub-market rent it offers have a key role to play in supporting livelihoods and providing the opportunity for people to move into work. The report outlines various ways in which the sector might be reformed to play a more effective role in supporting employment. 2.6 The Audit Commission requires housing organisations to promote financial services and welfare benefits to its customers, and mentions areas where organisations should attempt to do this in its Key Lines of Enquiry (KLOEs). KLOE 4, Housing Income Management, states that "…organisations should ensure that service users receive effective welfare benefit and debt advice to maximise income and manage debt." The Homelessness and Housing Advice KLOE specifically mentions 'The provision of advice and information and homelessness prevention initiatives is wide ranging and comprehensive in its coverage for example… debt counselling and advice.' 6
    • 3.0 How big is the problem? Summary National statistics indicate a significant proportion of social housing tenants are at risk of financial exclusion through no use of bank accounts, using doorstep credit, lacking home insurance and lack of benefits take up Within some areas of Stockport, research indicates low levels of awareness around advice on money and debt, high levels of doorstep credit and low levels of home contents insurance - all indicators of financial inclusion. Stockport Homes Financial Inclusion Strategy addresses maximising customer income, minimising customer debt and building financial capacity and awareness 3.1 Various research has taken place into the extent and nature of financial exclusion. Some key national figures include: • 1 in 10 people in the UK do not have a bank account and between 60% - 70% of those people live in social housing4. • An estimated 2-3 million people in the UK use home credit, paying interest rates up to 800% to doorstep lenders, loan sharks etc5 • 81% of social housing tenants have no savings account6 • Three million households lack home contents insurance, whilst being twice as likely to be burgled as people living in privately owned property7 • £4bn is unclaimed in benefits by older people 3.2 Although Stockport is a relatively affluent borough, it has pockets of deprivation centred around areas of social housing. Key local figures include: • Stockport is the 3rd most polarised local authority area in the UK according to the indices of deprivation, indicating areas of both very high and very low levels of deprivation within the borough has areas in the 1% most and least deprived end of the range.8 4 Treasury report ‘Promoting Financial Inclusion’, 2007 5 HM Treasury, 2007 6 NHF, 2007 7 Demos and SAFE, 2005 8 ‘Working Together For A Better Stockport’ Local Area Agreement, Stockport Partnership, June 2006 7
    • • 30% of Stockport Homes’ tenants are in rent arrears. Of those in arrears, 20% are aged 18-30 and this age group collectively owe 27% of all debt due to Stockport Homes.9 • 56% of respondents to a survey in Adswood / Bridghall did not know where to go for help on issues relating to debt and money problems, and of these, a large proportion (72%) were aged 16-2410 • In the Adswood Bridghall survey, 12% of people have loans from finance companies, 11% from doorstep lenders and 10% use catalogues. • Two-fifths (38%) of respondents to a survey in Brinnington said that they did not have household contents insurance11, whilst 78% did not have it in Adswood and Bridgehall. 3.3 What is Stockport Homes doing? This Strategy details how Stockport Homes is already addressing financial exclusion and how it can further address the issues. A Customer Finance Practising Excellence Forum was held in February 2008 focussing on Financial Inclusion and relevant outcomes from this event are included in this Strategy. The Strategy covers a three year period, in recognition that some of the issues cannot be addressed in the short term. The issues are broken down into three key areas, which are: • Maximising customer income - benefits advice, savings, insurance, bank accounts • Minimising customer debt - preventative work, affordable credit, debt advice • Building Financial Capability and Awareness How these aims will be achieved is detailed in the accompanying Action Plan in Appendix 1. In order to ensure that this Strategy is accessible to all, a plain language summary is in development. 9 A strategic analysis of current rent arrears in Stockport, Richard Jeffreys, 2007 10 Adswood and Bridghall Residents Survey, BMG, 2007 11 Brinnington Residents Survey, BMG, 2007 8
    • 4.0 Maximising customer income What is this about? • benefits advice to maximise income from benefits • assisting customers to get into paid employment • encouraging customers to set up banking and savings accounts • encouraging customers to take out home insurance • assisting customers to make their homes as energy efficient as possible • Promoting recycling of unwanted goods to benefit those on low incomes 4.1 What does Stockport Homes do already? 4.1.1 Benefits maximisation • Stockport Advice and Information service, incorporating welfare rights, provides a reception service for Stockport Homes. The Officers on these desks can therefore not only deal with basic housing enquiries but also offer specialist advice on a range of benefits issues. As a result of these links, a member of staff from the service has given dedicated advice to Stockport Homes area office staff on completing housing benefit forms with customers at sign up, which has increased the number being submitted. Housing Options and Resettlement staff are also trained in Housing Benefit verification. • The Customer Finance team have direct access to view the Housing Benefits system, allowing Stockport Homes staff to check on the progress of claims and quickly identify if benefit payments have stopped. Ensuring that customers process their housing benefit claims as soon as possible has been identified as a priority for Stockport Homes. Stockport Homes can facilitate a trial calculation of benefits with potential new tenants if required. A partnership with housing benefit is also in place where rent officers can track the housing benefit claims of tenants. • Stockport Advice have carried out welfare training at SHL’s twelve sheltered housing schemes which has resulted in additional benefits for many of Stockport Homes older customers. 4.1.2 Employment 9
    • • A number of jobs have been created for local people through the GM Procure project, such as apprenticeships. A small project offering training to people wanting to get back into work has also taken place. Although take up was low, those who did take part found it beneficial, with one person gaining employment as a result. This is making a contribution to Stockport Council’s strategic aim of tackling worklessness within the borough.12 • Stockport Homes is involved in supporting a community enterprise scheme through its membership of the GM Procure consortium. The project creates work placements for local people who are experiencing barriers to employment and helps them develop their skills, which may result in a placement with one of the partners of GM Procure. Stockport Homes is currently setting up an Intermediate Labour Market unit attached to Property Maintenance Solutions which will be fed by this community enterprise scheme.13 • Three micro businesses have been set up through GM Procure, and Stockport Homes is pressing for a further project to be located in the borough. • A course that teaches money management skills has been set up called ‘Money Matters’ targeted at customers of Temporary Accommodation and Resettlement and Tenancy Support. The course was well received and two people who attended the course went on to access a 22 week course of basic English and Maths. This course will continue to run throughout 2008 and is now open to all Stockport Homes’ customers through the ‘Skills for Life’ training programme in 2008-9. • Residents of Temporary Accommodation are asked about their financial management skills in their support plans, and are supported to maximise their income, as are customers of Resettlement and Tenancy Support and Sheltered Housing. • Surgeries with Stockport Into Work have been held at Brindale House. Attendees were taught CV skills, interview skills and then given one to one support in seeking employment. One customer has got a job as a result of the surgeries held. 4.1.3 Bank accounts • The Resettlement Team currently holds a surgery one afternoon per week where an Officer can help Rent Bond Scheme customers open a bank account online. This is held in a venue in the local community. Budgeting and housekeeping plans are done with other resettlement clients where appropriate. 4.1.4 Home insurance • Stockport Homes currently promotes low cost home insurance and this is explained at sign up to all new customers. It is also 12 Stockport Council Plan 2007 -2010 13 Report to the SHL Maintenance and Investment Sub Group, Mark Hudson, 27.05.08 10
    • promoted again at the new tenant visit after each new customers has been in their tenancy for four weeks. 4.1.5 Energy efficiency • Service users of Resettlement and Tenancy Support are helped to set up accounts with British Gas Essential Tariff Users which is a lower rate for people on benefits. • Resettlement Officers also set up payment arrangements for their service users, arrange pre-payment meters and access money from trust funds such as United Utilities, who offer money to those proven to be experiencing financial hardship. • Investment works are taking place throughout the borough which includes insulation, over cladding and replacement doors and windows which will dramatically cut customers’ fuel bills. • Residents of Temporary Accommodation are issued with energy saving light bulbs to take onto their new homes. • An Energy Efficiency Officer is being recruited for Stockport Homes • An Energy Performance certification scheme is being rolled out nationwide. Through this individual homes will have their energy efficiency tested and guidance given to customers on improving the outcome. • Energy efficient boilers have been installed in many homes as part of the capital programme, reducing fuel costs for customers by up to 30%. • Designs for new build properties on Dorset Avenue in Brinnington include provision of heat source pumps, whereby heat from the ground is converted into energy that can be used in the home to considerably offset heating costs. 4.1.6 Recycling • Stockport Homes works with the Furniture Station to enable customers on low incomes to access low cost furniture and other household goods. 4.2 What further action will Stockport Homes take? 4.2.1 Maximising benefits • Offering all customers a full financial health check at registration stage via Housing Options • Use the Stockport Council benefit bus to promote benefits take up • Promote existing literature on benefits to all customers, particularly targeting those with rent arrears • Instigate partnership work with the Pensions Service to allow tenants to be referred for a full benefits check and help with debts. 11
    • • Investigate use of maximiser computer at sign up to give indication of entitlement to all benefits • Train all Stockport Homes frontline staff on Income Maximisation so that they can offer basic advice and guidance to customers • Roll out the one-to-one benefit maximisation sessions conducted at Sheltered Schemes to include tenants living in Stockport Council’s Priority 1 areas14 (Brinnington, Adswood/Bridgehall, Lancashire Hill and Heaton Norris and the Town Centre) 4.2.2 Assisting customers into employment • Develop a Worklessness Strategy to Increase the range of ways in which vacancies are advertised and recruited, to ensure those facing barriers to gaining employment are given the opportunity to access Stockport Homes as an employer • Run further 'back to work' courses for tenants • Continue to develop the community enterprise scheme that is being set up through GM Procure. 4.2.3 Bank accounts • Ensure all new tenants receive a copy of the Financial Services Authority leaflet around how to open a bank account, including what form of i.d. is acceptable at sign up, and do this again four weeks into their tenancy. • Engage with local banks to set up partnership agreement around offering basic bank accounts to customers and training staff on basic bank accounts • Consider increasing the options for direct debit payment dates to allow these to better coincide with benefits payments. 4.2.4 Home insurance • Benchmark with other social housing providers to ensure home insurance offered represents good value for money for customers and offers options to those without bank accounts or credit cards to pay their home insurance premiums weekly or fortnightly. • Offer home contents insurance for one year as a prize option in Customer Finance prize draws 4.2.5 Energy efficiency 14 Stockport Council Plan 2007-2010. Using data from IMD 2007 Stockport has identified 4 Priority 1 areas – the Town Centre has been added to the list because it is the 3rd most deprived SOA in the borough. 12
    • • Investigate partnership working with an affordable energy supplier to provide cheaper energy prices when purchased through the partnership, and provide advice as part of sign up. • Arrange for an energy saving organisation such as the Energy Saving Trust or Stockport Council to attend customer events to give free advice. 4.2.6 Recycling • Promote 'freecycle' website to staff and tenants • Investigate a 'bulletin board' for staff to be able to advertise and donate goods to other staff and to vulnerable tenants e.g. temporary accommodation residents 13
    • 5.0 Minimising customer debt What is this about? • Preventing customer getting into debt and rent arrears • Providing customers with access to affordable credit • Providing customers with debt advice to help them to manage and reduce their debts effectively 5.1 What does Stockport Homes do already? 5.1.1 Preventative work • Stockport Homes provides customers with many different ways to pay their rent including Direct Debit since 2005. Stockport Homes currently have approximately 2600 customers paying their rent by Direct Debit, which is approximately 20% of the total. An incentive of £5.00 is paid for tenants who pay by direct debit. 5.1.2 Affordable credit • Stockport does have a Credit Union, but its capability is limited and is only available at certain times throughout the week across a limited number of areas in the borough. Its capability is slowly growing and with the opening of First House in Brinnington, the Credit Union has been able to open a new office there and offers surgeries five times a week. • Stockport Homes offers furnished tenancy packages for customers through the Resettlement Team. The Furnished Tenancy Scheme is a small pilot scheme, which provides a basic package of furniture and ‘white goods’ (such as cookers, fridges etc.) for people setting up home. To qualify for the scheme tenants must unable to access furniture / white goods by any other means, unlikely to qualify for a Community Care Grant and able to demonstrate the ability to adhere to a Furnished Tenancy Agreement. A small service charge is added to the rent of the property, although in some cases this is covered by housing benefit. 5.1.3 Debt advice 14
    • • Resettlement Officers send financial statements to debt collection agencies explaining the financial position to request the lowest possible payback amount. They also carry out personal financial plans with each service user which includes budgeting advice, housekeeping advice, shopping lists and local information. • Debt advice organisations are currently promoted with in the leaflet ‘How to pay your rent’ leaflet and also in the rent section of the customer handbook. If Officers discover that customers are having problems with debt at sign up, they are signposted to the correct agencies. • Face to face debt advice and support is offered to those in serious debt problems; all tenants are offered debt advice prior to a case being referred to County Court, all tenants are referred to Tenancy Support prior to a court hearing and to the Housing Options Team prior to eviction. Residents’ of Temporary Accommodation receive a Support Log which identifies any measures that need to be put in place to overcome financial issues. • Tenancy Support Officers offer one to one support for those who are in the most arrears, and customers are signposted to advice and debt agencies through the booklet ‘paying your rent’ in the customer handbook. Rent free weeks are also offered which helps tenants to save money over the Christmas period and at financial year end. 5.2 What further action will Stockport Homes take? 5.2.1 Preventative work • Include a guide to likely cost of renting a property with all offer letters, such as council tax, service charges, energy bills etc • Investigate developing an alternative guide for young people through making a DVD • Offer financial health checks for new tenants at sign up by instigating a process of ensuring tenants have attended a meeting with welfare rights immediately prior to or immediately following sign up. Train Stockport Homes staff to gather basic information from the customer prior to this appointment to maximise its effectiveness. • Use rent arrears analysis to profile 'at risk' tenants, and target them with publicity via letter, text, telephone and home visit where appropriate • Consider a designated early intervention officer role to facilitate this, possibly by upskilling an existing member of staff or contributing towards the cost of a welfare rights member of staff working part time for Stockport Homes 15
    • • Invite welfare rights staff to attend future Area Forums, Young Tenants Group and Sheltered Housing CAG to offer benefits and debt advice to customer attending. • Carry out further research into the profile of failed tenancies, including tenancy terminations to ensure publicity and advice is targeted at those groups most at risk. • Hold a 'pay and stay' arrears fortnight every quarter targeting those in arrears through visits to properties, telephone calls, face to face interviews and referrals to other agencies for advice • Offer Money Matters course to all tenants in arrears • Refocus tenancy visits to financial issues • Create focussed information to send to customers at key life stages or situations e.g. birth, marriage, returning to work, ill health, going to prison, redundancy, retirement and death when housing office is notified of changes. • Cover financial inclusion information in the next STATUS survey • Develop links with probation service to assist ex-offenders who may become tenants • Promote 'making money easy' website to customers (launched end 2008) • Set up a procedure for regular case conferencing on tenants at risk between temporary accommodation/ resettlement and customer finance to ensure better communication and earlier identification of problems 5.2.2 Debt advice • Use tenant profile to inform location of mobile advice service during the school holidays and in the New Year. • For existing tenants, instigate system to indicate whether referrals to welfare rights have been kept and make further contact with the tenant where they have not made contact. • Utilise marketing expertise at Stockport Homes to publicise the CAB service on a wider basis. • Add debtline or welfare rights number to SHL freephones. 5.2.3 Affordable credit • Work with the Stockport Credit Union to expand its services in areas where Stockport Homes tenants live, developing a service level agreement if appropriate, in return for Stockport Homes underwriting loans. • Offer prize of having a credit union account set up with money in it for future incentives, supplemented if money still in there after six month period. • Create stronger links with the Credit Union to support them to operate more widely particularly in terms of promotion of their services 16
    • • Encourage Stockport Homes staff to open accounts with Stockport Credit Union, therefore widening its membership and profile • Encourage Stockport Home staff to become volunteers for the Credit Union • Work with schools through their citizenship programmes to promote credit unions to school children and their families • Arrange for same rent arrears repayment levels as offered by doorstep lenders but have part of it going into CU account • Consider offering loans through SHL • Investigate allowing customers to save as they pay their rent by paying a higher amount each month • Ensure all Stockport Homes customers are aware of the Saving Gateway, which is a Government initiative to encourage saving through financial incentives when it launches in 2010. 17
    • 6.0 Building Financial Capability and Awareness What is this about? • Improving numeracy and literacy for customers • Improving financial literacy for staff and customers • Working in partnership with other organisations to maximise impact 6.1 What is Stockport Homes doing? 6.1.1 Numeracy and literacy • At Stockport Homes those customers who are experiencing difficulties with their tenancies are offered the support of a Tenancy Support Officer who provide advice on financial issues. Tenancy Support Officers have commented that one of the main problems for the customers they support is literacy and numeracy issues. Literacy and Numeracy courses are also offered in the ‘Skills for Life’ customer training programme through Learn Direct. • Service users of Temporary Accommodation and Resettlement and Tenancy Support receive advice and help with these issues as they are identified in their support plans. • Residents of temporary accommodation who do not have English as a first language are offered ESOL classes to improve their literacy. • Money Matters, a four week course which teaches basic budgeting, gives basic debt advice and shows customers how to interpret loan information has been set up for the service users of Resettlement and Tenancy Support and Temporary Accommodation after a need was identified through consultation with service users. The course has also been added into the Stockport Homes Customer Training Programme for 2008/9, accessible for all Stockport Homes’ customers. Further six week courses have been set up to run in September 2008, January 2009 and July 2009. • Stockport Homes are part of Financial Inclusion Forum of housing organisations in Greater Manchester who share good practice and advice, and seek funding for joint projects. The group has an action plan to which Stockport Homes contributes. 18
    • 6.1.2 What further action will Stockport Homes take? • Actively seek funding sources for Financial Inclusion work • Promote financial inclusion through a range of methods including face to face contact with customers and a DVD at tenancy sign up to ensure those with literacy problems can access services • Set up a financial inclusion section on the intranet so staff can share examples of low cost providers and other useful information. Build an online forum to gather customer views on financial inclusion on the internet. • Ensure initiatives used in the Housing Need and Support Services Directorate and communicated to and replicated where appropriate by the Housing Management Directorate • Widen the terms of reference of the Income Management Customer Action Group to include work around financial inclusion. • Continue to attend the Greater Manchester Financial Inclusion Forum and contribute to their joint action plan. • Consult partners about setting up a regular financial inclusion meeting with partners in Stockport to monitor progress and identify any areas for improvement. • Have financial inclusion as an agenda item at the next customer conference in 2009. • Promote employment through Job Centre Plus, including through a terminal in the Housing Information Centre. • Instigate training for staff around financial inclusion, using resources available on the internet and from other housing providers. • Ensure that as a responsible employer, Stockport Homes provides financial inclusion information to staff as well as customers. 19
    • 7.0 How will the Strategy be delivered? What is this about? • Engaging customers in planning and delivering the financial inclusion agenda • Delivering financial inclusion awareness to both staff and customers • Working in partnership to maximise the range of financial inclusion initiatives delivered in the borough 7.1 The actions outlined above cannot be delivered without strong working partnerships between Stockport Homes and a variety of other organisations. Stockport Homes already has wide ranging partnerships in all areas of its business that can be utilised to promote initiatives to Stockport Homes’ customers and the wider community. Agencies that are key to the success of this Strategy and with whom Stockport Homes already carry out partnership work in this area are: • Stockport Credit Union • Stockport Citizen’s Advice Bureau • Stockport Council Benefits Department • Stockport Council Welfare Advice • Stockport Continuing Education Service • Greater Manchester Financial Inclusion Forum • GM Procure • Manchester Solutions • Probation and Prison Services Other agencies that will be engaged to deliver the strategy are: • Stockport Housing Partnership • Connexions • Job Centre Plus • Local banks • Youth Services • Stockport Into Work • Local Schools 20
    • 7.2 It is also essential that customers themselves are engaged in shaping Stockport Homes’ approach to tackling financial inclusion. This has already been achieved to some extent through support planning for customers in supported accommodation such as sheltered schemes and temporary accommodation, and can be expanded more widely. Consultation will take place through established customer involvement methods, including customer action groups. 7.3 Although much of the work can be carried out within existing resources, Stockport Homes will work to access funding to develop customer and staff awareness. 21
    • Appendix 1 - Action Plan for Financial Inclusion Strategy Maximising customer income Action Measurable outcome Responsible officer Deadline Progress Maximising benefits Offering all customers a Homechoice application Simon Welch Instigated December full financial health form shows details on 2008 check at registration benefits have been stage via Housing checked Options Jan West Sign up checklist shows benefits check completed Use the Stockport Report from benefits Colin Masters Two events by Council benefit bus to service on take up at November 2008 promote benefits take SHL events Richard Jeffreys up Promote existing Mailing sent to all Jane Wresdell To be included with literature on benefits to customers October 2008 newsletter all customers, particularly targeting those with rent arrears Instigate partnership Minutes of partnership Martyn Shaw (Yvonne February 2009 work with the Pensions meetings show pilot Morris, Maria Service to allow older completed. Lindars/Brian tenants to be referred Billingham) for a full benefits check Recommendations from June 2009 and help with debts. pilot enacted. 22
    • Investigate use of System implemented Jan West December 2008 maximiser computer at sign up to give indication of entitlement to all benefits Train relevant Stockport All CSOs, Housing Tanya King (Joanne March 2009 Homes frontline staff on Advisors and Calcutt) Income Maximisation so Resettlement staff that they can offer basic trained advice and guidance to customers Roll out the one-to-one At least two sessions Tanya King (Sue Baker) March 2009 benefit maximisation held in each area sessions conducted at Sheltered Schemes to include tenants living in Stockport Council’s target areas (Brinnington, Adswood/ Bridgehall, Lancashire Hill and Heaton Norris) Assisting customers into employment Develop a Survey of where Tanya King (Steve December 2008 Worklessness Strategy vacancies were seen by Ringrow) to increase the range of applicants shows a ways in which vacancies wider range of locations are advertised and are used recruited, to ensure those facing barriers to Progress report gaining employment are indicates posts filled by given the opportunity to previously unemployed access Stockport people Homes as an employer 23
    • Investigate the Impact assessment of Sam Lloyd (Tanya King) January 2009 possibility of running training course further 'back to work' completed courses for tenants Continue to develop the Report to SHMT to Mark Hudson December 2008 community enterprise progress scheme that is being set up through GM Procure. Bank accounts Ensure all new tenants Sign up checklist and Jan West December 2008 receive a copy of the new tenant survey FSA leaflet around how report show information to open a bank account, provided. including what form of i.d. is acceptable at sign up, and do this again four weeks into their tenancy. Engage with local banks Banks approached, Richard Jeffreys February 2009 to set up partnership meetings arranged and agreement around reported. offering basic bank accounts to customers Staff training completed. Steve Ringrow and training staff on basic bank accounts Consider increasing the Report to Customer Richard Jeffreys March 2009 options for direct debit Finance CAG on payment dates to allow findings and implement these to better coincide if appropriate with benefits payments. Home insurance Benchmark with other Benchmarking report Richard Jeffreys October 2008 social housing providers complete 24
    • to ensure home insurance offered represents good value for money for customers and offers options to those without bank accounts or credit cards to pay their home insurance premiums weekly or fortnightly. Offer home contents Prize awarded to Richard Jeffreys October 2008 insurance for one year winning customer as a prize option in prize draws Energy efficiency Investigate partnership Report on results of Mark Hudson November 2008 working with an contact completed affordable energy supplier to provide cheaper energy prices Jan West when purchased through the partnership, and provide advice as part of sign up Arrange for an energy Organisation attends Sam Lloyd December 2008 saving organisation event such as the Energy Saving Trust or Stockport Council to attend customer events to give free advice. Recycling Promote 'freecycle' to Recommendations from Jane Wresdell October 2008 staff and tenants investigations approved 25
    • and implemented Investigate 'bulletin Recommendations from Jane Wresdell November 2008 board' for staff to be investigations approved able to advertise and and implemented donate goods to other staff and to vulnerable tenants e.g. temporary accommodation Bulletin board promoted Jo Cole January 2009 residents to all staff via the green staff group 26
    • Minimising customer debt Action Measurable outcome Responsible officer Deadline Progress Preventative work Include a guide to likely cost Guide completed and Jan West (Jane January 2009 of renting a property with all given to customers offer letters, such as council Wresdell) tax, service charges, energy bills etc Investigate developing an DVD complete and Jan West January 2009 alternative guide for young given to all young people through making a tenants aged 18-30 DVD Offer financial health checks Sign up check list Jan West December 2008 for new tenants at sign up by indicates financial iinstigating a process of healthcheck completed ensuring tenants have attended a meeting with welfare rights immediately prior to or immediately following sign up. Train Stockport Homes staff to gather basic information from the customer prior to this appointment to maximise its effectiveness. Use rent arrears analysis to Analysis complete and Richard Jeffreys October 2008 profile 'at risk' tenants, and customers targeted target them with publicity via letter, text, telephone and 27
    • home visit where appropriate Consider a designated early Recommendation made Tanya King (Anne-Marie intervention / Financial to SHMT, agreed course Heil) Inclusion Officer role, of action implemented possibly by upskilling an existing member of staff or contributing towards the cost of a welfare rights member of staff working part time for Stockport Homes Invite welfare rights staff to Minutes indicate welfare Tanya King October / November attend future Area Forums, rights attended event 2009 Forums Young Tenants Group and Sheltered housing CAG to Outcomes reported to February 2009 Forums offer benefits and debt SHL every six months Sue Baker advice to customer attending. Carry out further research Report completed and Maria Lindars (Lauren November 2008 into the profile of failed recommendations Atherton) tenancies, including tenancy enacted terminations to ensure publicity and advice is targeted at those groups most at risk. Hold a 'pay and stay' arrears Report completed on Richard Jeffreys January 2009 fortnight every quarter, outcomes targeting those in arrears through visits to properties, telephone calls, face to face interviews and referrals to other agencies for advice Offer Money matters course Results of 3 month pilot Tanya King (Richard February 2009 to all tenants in arrears reported to SHMT Jeffreys) 28
    • Refocus tenancy visits to New tenant survey Jan West December 2008 include financial issues shows financial issues discussed Create focussed information Literature available to Jan West (Jane November 2008 to send to customers at key customers Wresdell) life stages e.g. birth, marriage, returning to work, retirement and death when housing office is notified of changes. Cover financial inclusion Report produced from Tanya King November 2008 information in the next survey STATUS survey Develop links with probation Links in place Anne-Marie Heil (Kim January 2009 service to assist ex- Hooley) offenders who may become tenants Promote 'making money Article in newsletter and Jane Wresdell (Richard March 2009 easy' website to customers flyers circulated at Jeffreys) (launched end 2008) customer events Regular case conferences Procedure written and in Simon Welch (Anne- January 2009 for at risk tenants between place Marie Heil/Richard temporary Jeffreys) accommodation/resettlemen t and customer finance Debt advice Use tenant profile to inform Report completed into Richard Jeffreys (Sue January 2009, and July location of mobile advice how many customers Baker) 2009 service during the school have used advice holidays and in the new service year. For existing tenants, System in place Richard Jeffreys November 2008 instigate system to indicate whether referrals to welfare 29
    • rights have been kept and make further contact with the tenant where they have not made contact. Utilise marketing expertise at Publicity in place Jane Wresdell October 2008 Stockport Homes to publicise the CAB service on a wider basis. Add debtline or welfare Numbers added to Tanya King August 2008 rights number to SHL freephones and usage freephones monitored Affordable credit Work with the Stockport SLA in place, number of Tanya King (Jo Cole) January 2009 credit union to expand its credit union members services in areas where increases Stockport Homes tenants live, developing a service level agreement if appropriate, in return for Stockport Homes underwriting loans. Offer prize of having a credit Prize awarded to tenant Tanya King (Jo Cole) October 2008 union account set up with money in it for future incentives, supplemented if money still in there after six month period. Create stronger links with Increase in membership Tanya King (Jo Cole, January 2009 the Credit Union to support of credit union month on Jane Wresdell) them to operate more widely month particularly in terms of promotion of their services Encourage Stockport Homes Promotion in staff Jo Cole (Jane Wresdell) November 2008 staff to open accounts with newsletter, on intranet 30
    • Stockport Credit Union, and with payslips therefore widening its membership and profile Encourage Stockport Home Staff recorded as Jo Cole April 2009 staff to become volunteers volunteers for the Credit Union Work with schools through Sessions delivered to Tanya King (Jo Cole) June 2009 their citizenship programmes schools to promote credit unions to school children and their families Arrange for same rent Arrangement in place Richard Jeffreys March 2009 arrears repayment levels as offered by doorstep lenders but have part of it going into CU account Consider offering loans Report on viability Carmel Perkins December 2008 through SHL completed and recommendations enacted. Investigate allowing Report completed on Richard Jeffreys December 2008 customers to save as they viability pay their rent Recommendations enacted Ensure all Stockport Homes Publicity distributed to Jane Wresdell July 2010 customers are aware of the all customers Saving Gateway 31
    • Building Financial Capability and Awareness Action Measurable outcome Responsible officer Deadline Progress Actively seek funding Report to SHMT on Jo Cole (Tanya King) December 2008 sources for Financial funding secured Inclusion work Promote financial inclusion Promotional material Tanya King January 2009 through a range of methods created and distributed including face to face contact with customers and a DVD at tenancy sign up to ensure those with literacy problems can access services Set up a financial inclusion Sections available Tanya King (Jane January 2009 section on the intranet so online Wresdell) staff can share examples of low cost providers and other useful information. Build an online forum to gather customer views on financial inclusion on the internet. Ensure initiatives used in the Initiatives in place Anne-Marie Heil (Jan December 2008 Housing Need and Support West) Services Directorate and communicated to and replicated where appropriate by the Housing Management Directorate 32
    • Have financial inclusion as Session delivered at Sam Lloyd July 2009 an agenda item at the next conference customer conference in 2009. Promote employment Promotional material Tanya King (Jo Cole, December 2008 through Job Centre Plus, distributed to customers Jane Wresdell) including through a terminal in the Housing Information Centre. Instigate training for staff Training sessions Tanya King (Joanne February 2009 around financial inclusion, completed Calcutt) using resources available on the internet and from other housing providers Ensure that as a responsible Information distributed Tanya King (Steve February 2009 employer, Stockport Homes to staff and covered at Ringrow / Jane provides financial inclusion staff conference 2009 Wresdell) information to staff as well as customers. 33