Holistic approach avoids customer losing home

A very vulnerable customer has been helped to avoid being evicted from her home due to rent arrears which escalated because she was too ill to claim benefits or engage with any agencies.

We worked closely with Sandwell Borough Council and NHS and social services to achieve almost £5,500 of backdated housing benefit and apply for practical support.

Angela Robinson, our tenancy sustainability manager, said: “Our long standing customer is extremely vulnerable, having experienced frequent and severe mental health relapses over the years. Like a lot of people with severe mental health issues, she stops engaging when she is unwell and it is very hard to persuade her to access support when she needs it the most.

“Unfortunately, after nearly a year of not taking her medication, claiming any benefits or agreeing to work with any agencies, we had exhausted all options available to us. We had no choice but to start re-possession proceedings and were granted an outright possession order for 56 days as the District Judge could see we had gone above and beyond to try to engage with our customer.

“We made a commitment with the courts that we would intensely continue attempts to engage with our tenant, visiting her every week to try and get her to resolve her benefits. She spoke to our rent payment officer Rajita Malhi, a couple of times but was very unwell and did not continue to co-operate.”

Now experiencing severe mental health crisis, our customer abandoned her home in Sandwell to live on the streets, getting food and blankets from her Sikh temple until it was forced to close because of the COVID-19 lockdown.

“At this point she went to her sisters’ house. They had not seen her for months and they alerted mental health services and she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

“Meanwhile, working closely with Sandwell’s welfare rights team and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, we were successful in getting nearly £5,500 in backdated housing benefit. And we are now pushing to get a long-term support plan in place before she goes home from hospital.”

This has included applying to the appointeeship service for an appointee to manage her finances and sustain her tenancy by ensuring payment of Employment and Support Allowance and housing benefit don’t rely on her engagement with the agencies.

“I am determined to find a holistic solution for our customer,” added Angela. “My next challenge is finding her a more suitable home that is nearer to her family and temple so she can further benefit from their support.”

23rd June 2020 | 2020