Supporting Nottingham’s hardest-hit families through Covid and cost-of-living crisis

Nottingham City Homes (NCH) has helped some of the city’s hardest hit families to get £3.7million in financial support.

NCH has seen a significant increase in the number of people needing help and support since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. They have dedicated teams who support tenants with financial help and work with them to get the benefits they need from the Government to survive.

In the last financial year, NCH has:

  • Supported an extra 4,862 residents for the first time
  • Helped people to access over £3.7m in benefits and grants of more than £186,500 that they’re entitled to
  • Reduced rent arrears by more than £343,182
  • Provided more than 1,000 new tenants with support before moving into their new homes – identifying an average of £81.38 a week in extra benefits they could claim.

Most of these new benefit claimants are from households who work and have had a change of circumstances such as being unable to work, being furloughed, needing to increase caring responsibilities and home schooling. 

The pandemic has had a devastating impact, leaving many people uncertain about their pay and income. During this uncertain time, NCH also brought forward their two rent-free weeks at the start of the first lockdown to help with the immediate financial impact of the pandemic, and they’ve continued to provide support to many families who have been struggling. With winter on the way and rising costs of fuel, energy and food and the ending of the Universal Credit uplift, many are still worried and will need ongoing support from NCH.

NCH also actively contacts all new Universal Credit claimants and help them to understand the system to make sure they get all the financial support they are entitled to.

Some of the lowest income families are going to be further hit as the Government’s additional £20 a week has been removed. The temporary £20 increase to Universal Credit payments was introduced during the pandemic but was stopped on 6 October.

The standard allowance for a single person aged under 25 falls back from £79 a week to £59 – a drop of 25%. For a couple, where either one of them is 25 or over, their allowance drops from £137 a week to £117 – a fall of 15%. For some people that could be the difference between heating their home or buying food. More than 40,000 Nottingham households, containing more than 80,000 adults and children, will lose out by up to £1,000 per year without the uplift. Six-in-ten single-parent families will see their income drop by £1,040 per year.

Across the city there has been a surge in people – not just NCH tenants – claiming benefits for the first time due to the impact of Covid, with 7,500 extra claimants in the city over the past year. Now more than 28,000 Nottingham households are on Universal Credit and there has also been an increase in people using food banks.

Examples of how NCH has helped tenants

(Names have been removed for anonymity)

Case A

Miss A contracted Coronavirus and was in hospital for several weeks. She was only getting Statutory Sick Pay from her employer and was unable to pay her rent and other bills. She got in touch and the team helped her apply for Universal Credit and Council Tax support and get this backdated. Because she had too many bedrooms she was affected by Bedroom Tax – the team helped her get a Discretionary Housing Payment to help cover this. They also arranged for a discount from Severn Trent Water. They supported her until she got her first payment of Universal Credit, with food and fuel vouchers.

Miss A contracted Coronavirus and was in hospital for several weeks. She was only getting Statutory Sick Pay from her employer and was unable to pay her rent and other bills. She got in touch and the team helped her apply for Universal Credit and Council Tax support and get this backdated. Because she had too many bedrooms she was affected by Bedroom Tax – the team helped her get a Discretionary Housing Payment to help cover this. They also arranged for a discount from Severn Trent Water. They supported her until she got her first payment of Universal Credit, with food and fuel vouchers.

Case B

Mr B lost his job due to his employer closing down. The team helped him claim Universal Credit and New Style Job Seekers Allowance. They referred him to NCH’s Employability Team who gave him support to get back into work and helped him to look for work. The team worked with Mr B to look at his budget, so he had just enough to cover his bill and rent until he finds a new job.

Nick Murphy, Chief Executive at Nottingham City Homes, said: “At the start of the pandemic, NCH made a pledge that nobody in an NCH property would lose their home because of coronavirus, and we are always committed to doing all we can to support residents who are struggling financially.

“For many, heading into winter can be a worrying and challenging time financially, especially with the rise in fuel costs, job losses due to Covid and the rising cost of living and the loss of the £20 Universal Credit top-up. These last 18 months have especially left people struggling with money and struggling to support themselves and their families.

“We are helping our hardest hit residents in accessing financial support from the Government. Many people are entitled to benefits but they are unaware or struggle to understand the system and what support is available because the system is overwhelmingly complex. It’s important our residents have enough to live on and can still afford to pay their rent, so I would urge residents to get in touch with our teams, please don’t bury your head in the sand, we can help you.”

Cllr Linda Woodings, Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage at Nottingham City Council, said: “The last 18 months has been difficult for all of us, but it has especially left some of the cities hardest hit families struggling with money and struggling to support themselves and their families and the £20 uplift had proved a lifeline for Nottingham Families.

“It enabled them to keep their heads above water for heating, water, rent and food. By removing it, the Government is placing people into serious hardship, particularly as we enter the winter months with energy bills also due to increase significantly.

“This is an issue which affects many thousands of the poorest children across Nottingham and affects those in low-paid, unstable work and low-income working people who are struggling to make ends meet already. Taking away the £20 per week will now undoubtedly mean that more families will have to make the choice between heating and eating, which shouldn’t be happening in this day and age.”

How to get help?

There is help available in Nottingham for anyone worried about their financial situation:

General city residents and NCH residents

  • Benefits advice: Welfare Rights can help with benefit checks, making new claims, benefit sanctions, overpayments, disability benefits, challenging benefit decisions and appeals. Visit www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/welfarerights.
  • Food Banks: A list of free and cheap food venues, including food banks, is available online at asklion www.asklion.co.uk/food

For more financial help and support services see www.asklion.co.uk/money

Nottingham City Home tenants only

If any NCH tenants are struggling financially or have any questions they can contact the team by email: moneymatters@nottinghamcityhomes.org.uk, or phone: 0115 9154920 or text for free: DOSH and your name, address and free message to 80800.

Share this post!