A Day in the Life of an LHA winner

Left: Tracey Hamilton (New EHPS Co-ordinator for The North London Early Homelessness Prevention Service), Right: Alexandra Austin (Former Service User).

The North London Early Homelessness Prevention Service has been announced as a winner of the London Homelessness Awards 2019. The final announcement of where they have been placed in the top three will take place at a special event at London’s City hall in October. We asked Ellie Andrews at the project to tell us about an average day.

Today I am in the job centre and all housing advice appointments are booked up. My first appointment is with a gentleman struggling to pay the rent in his council property after being made redundant. After going over his Universal Credit claim I realised he was receiving large deductions for a debt recovery. With the help of his work coach we found out this was due to a tax credits overpayment and after explaining his current situation, the monthly payments were reduced from £49 to £5. We then spoke to his rental income officer where we explained his change in circumstances and that he would be applying for a Discretionary Housing Payment to help reduce the arrears. I also arranged for him to pick up food bank vouchers as he had disclosed he had little money for food. I asked him to call me if he had any difficulties completing the Discretionary Housing Payment form and that I would see him next week to submit it.

Just before lunch a work coach asked if I wouldn’t mind quickly seeing someone who had received multiple warning letters from their Housing Association about possible court action over unpaid rent. The tenant is unsure as to why she is in arrears as she believes Housing Benefit is covering her whole rent. After calling the Housing Association they confirmed the tenant was in £600 of rent arrears as her Housing Benefit had been reduced but, agreed to put court action on hold whilst the tenant worked with me and a repayment plan eventually set up. After asking her work coach for information on her benefit claim it became apparent her entitlement had recently changed which I explained would have affected her Housing Benefit. We booked an appointment with the local councils Welfare Reform team who can assist her in appealing the change to her benefits and she agreed to see me next week for a further assessment to see how we can help sustain her tenancy.

My final appointment of the day is with someone who was referred to me a few weeks ago as they were affected by the benefit cap and struggling to keep up with their rent. During the first assessment I referred her to a local organisation who could offer her support in finding employment. After engaging with them, she has found part-time employment and today we are making sure her Universal Credit claim has been updated and to check with her landlord about any outstanding rent. Her landlord confirmed that there are a couple of hundred pounds of arrears. I explain that now the tenant is in employment, she will be able to make full rent payments going forward and to make a small contribution each week to reduce the arrears. The landlord is happy with this and will take no further action to evict her. We check with her work coach that the benefit cap has been removed from her claim and with her extra income from her job, she is able to stay in her home!

For more information about the London Homelessness Awards go to www.lhawards.org.uk

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