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SUMMER 2017

SU MM E R

M O N E Y

H E L P

A D V I C E

Inside:

UNIVERSAL CREDIT SUMMER FUN

PAYING YOUR RENT

VOLUNTEERING SUCCESS AND LOTS MORE!


WELCOME

Contents 03 Welcome 04 Meet the Team 06 Universal Credit is Coming 07 Summer Saver Tips 08 The Great Outdoors 10 Food for Thought 11 Food is Fun 12 Save on School Meals 13 Summer of Fun 14 Recipies 16 From Homelessness to

Higher Education

23 Money Wise Stats 24 Volunteering Pays Off 26 Pathway to Careers 27 Blossoming in Work 28 Universal Credit

- Anita’s Story

29 Homeswapper 29 Universal Credit Payments 30 Neil & Jessie 31 Don’t Get Burnt This

38 Ways to Pay Your Rent 39 Changes to Your Water

Charges

40 Loan Sharks 40 Avoid the Credit Card Trap 42 Saving Alternatives 43 Saving 44 Mobile Mad 45 Credit Union 46 Hidden Extras

Summer

32 Tackling the Benefit Cap 34 Switching Your Energy

47 Data Roaming 48 King’s Wood Gate 49 Homesearch 50 New Homes 51 Your Data

18 Pop-Up Business School Supplier 20 Female Apprentices Set 35 Solar Panels for Success 36 Smart Meters 22 Work & Skills Wise Stats 37 Making Ends Meet

- Mobile Phones

If you would like this Newsletter in a different format (e.g. large print, electronically, etc.) or in Welsh please contact Louise Davies on 01495 761104 or email louise.davies@monmouthshirehousing.co.uk 0345 677 2277 customerservices@monmouthshirehousing.co.uk www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk facebook.com/Monmouthshire.Housing twitter.com/mon_housing instagram.com/monhousing

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Scan the QR code to access the MHA website.


Moving to Universal Credit? We Can Help - 0345 677 2277 have fitted seamlessly into life at MHA, working with MHA’s trading subsidiary, Capsel. If you are looking to find employment in a particular role or area of work and struggling to get that foot in the door, why not give our Work and Skills Wise team a ring and see how we can support you?

Hello and welcome to the summer 2017 edition of Money Matters. We have worked hard to bring you another packed edition of the magazine, with lots of money saving hints, tips, support and advice. This edition can help you take control of your finances and make the most of another long (and hopefully hot!) summer. There are loads of real life stories from MHA tenants and opportunities to boost your learning and personal development. Inside you’ll find practical summer saving tips and Healthy Start vouchers for new parents (see page 11 for full terms and conditions). There is information on accessing free school meals and free leisure facilities in Monmouthshire.

There’s a wealth of support available to help you improve your money matters – so why not take advantage! We take real pride in hearing the many and varied success stories of our tenants. On page 24 you can read how volunteering with MHA has paid off for Tracy. She’s now found paid work through her volunteering journey, a great example of how opportunities such as the Work and Skills Wise volunteering programme can be life changing. Kyle is another MHA tenant who talks about how he’s turning his life around with support from MHA – turn to page 16 to find out more. On page 20, you can hear about how two female apprentices

Pages 22 & 23 detail annual outcomes from our Money Wise and Work and Skills Wise service. With benefit changes continuing to affect our tenants, the great support offered by Work and Skills Wise and Money Wise services is going to become even more vital with Universal Credit being rolled out in Monmouthshire in full in April 2018. MHA’s Inclusion and Income teams are busy preparing people for the changes. As part of this we have recently launched the Rent Bug campaign turn to page 31 to find out more - there’s up to £500 on offer too! Page 30 covers Neil’s story – he’s a shining example of someone embracing the rent first approach. We’ve also dedicated a number of pages to fuel poverty and how you can save money on your gas and heating bills. Finally, we hope you enjoy this edition of Money Matters – we are always keen to hear your feedback and ideas – do let us know what you think.

But for now we want to wish you a lovely summer. Until the next edition goodbye for now!

Farida Aslam twitter.com/mon_housing

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WELCOME

Abi

Meet the Team My name is Abi and I’m your Specialist Debt Advisor working in all areas of Monmouthshire from Wednesday to Friday.

Sarah

Matt

You can refer yourself for help with your household bills and any debts you may have.

www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

Money problems are very common and can be stressful, so please don’t suffer in silence. Pick up the phone or send an email and I’ll make an appointment to see you in your home or a one stop shop.

Hi my name is Matthew Taylor and I am the Benefits and Money Advisor for MHA covering the Caldicot, Chepstow and Usk areas.

If you are struggling to pay your rent, need help budgeting or even need help making an application for new benefits, then please get in touch.

I’m Sarah and I work Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays covering Abergavenny & Monmouth. I can help with benefits, budgeting and reducing water rates.

than £20,000 per year or £384 per week through benefits alone. If you currently receive more than this your income may be reduced.

I’m busy trying to help families affected by the benefit cap. The benefit cap affects families and single people who get more

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I can help you manage your debts and find long term solutions to debt issues. Some of the things I can help with include drawing up a budget, writing letters on your behalf, making phone calls for you and even helping you deal with bailiffs.

I am happy to come visit you in the comfort of your home or if you prefer we could meet somewhere that is convenient to you.

If you are having your benefits capped and need help, call us. Also, if you want some help getting your finances in order or a benefit check to make sure you are getting everything you are entitled to, please get in touch. I can come to visit you at home or a place that suits you.


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Cath

Hi, my name’s Cath Murray and I have been the Work & Skills Wise Advisor for South Monmouthshire for the past 4 years. It’s been another great year where Work & Skills Wise have supported tenants of MHA with a variety of initiatives.

Helena

Our core Work & Skills Wise Service supports you with developing your skills and experience to help you progress, grow and lead you into your next job. We do this by providing funding (via our bursary scheme) to enable you to undertake training as well as arranging volunteer placements to help with skills development. Our bursary scheme has enabled us to pay for course fees, books and materials as well Hello, my name is Helena Smith and I have been with the Work and Skills Wise Team for a year now.

The last year has been a journey for both me and the people I’ve worked with. There have been some really positive outcomes for MHA tenants. Alongside our core service, we’ve delivered

as work related equipment. We continue to provide job seeking skills support on a group and one to one basis, whatever suits our tenant’s needs. Along with supporting tenant’s into employment, we have also supported people to develop their self-employment business ideas through the “Pop Up Business School”, (see page18). We have already delivered 2 successful programmes and will be offering this for the third time in September over a two week period starting on the 11th and ending 22nd. twitter.com/mon_housing I work to provide my clients with a personalised advice service to meet their needs and aspirations. Whether you’re interested in developing your skills, volunteering or looking for your next job, please get in touch.

the Active Inclusion Monmouthshire Employment Pathway project. This has enabled us to work alongside participants to help them to achieve their goals. We’ve offered supported paid employment placements. We have worked with local businesses to provide work based training to enhance skills and build the confidence of the participants to move into employment. If you live in the north of Monmouthshire and would like an appointment to discuss your future plans please contact me.

For more information or advice call the Inclusion Team on 01495 745769 or email moneywise@monmouthshirehousing.co.uk for money help and advice or wsw@monmouthshirehousing.co.uk for help into work. twitter.com/mon_housing

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SUMMER SAVERS

Universal Credit is Coming

From March 2018, the government’s new Universal Credit system will be introduced across Monmouthshire. Universal Credit is a new monthly payment replacing Jobseeker’s Allowance and other workrelated benefits.

You may be affected Be prepared – contact MHA

Once you apply to move on to Universal Credit, you could be waiting around six weeks for your first payment to come through. It’s best to prepare now and save yourself a lot of stress later on!

Call us: 0345 677 2277

#F

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Look out for a range of money saving hints and tips and read real-life stories from people who’ve moved on to Universal Credit throughout this edition of Money Matters.


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8 Out & About?

Take your own food/ drink! Look out for tasty treats throughout Money Matters.

Hi-De-Hi Campers

Summer Saver Tips Swishing Party The term ‘swishing’ means ‘to rustle’ so ‘rustle’ from friends by getting everyone to bring at least two quality items of clothing/accessories they no longer wear and pick up something different! It’s like shopping but free. Check out www.getswishing.com for more ideas.

www.pitchup.com from £12/ night at one of the many parks in Monmouthshire. Most have open play areas and good facilities on-site.

Days Out

Plan, Plan, Plan!

Don’t assume the kids need expensive day trips and constant entertainment. We are very lucky to live in a glorious corner of the earth with lots of local attractions and parks to explore! See Pages 8/9 for ideas

Set a budget, prepare a meal plan for the coming week and cook and buy in bulk wherever possible (try shopping after 8pm to pick up the bargains).

Junior Chefs! Let the creativity flow by getting the kids to prepare and cook the family meals (under supervision of course!)

The Library is Your Friend Pick up a cheap movie rental for those rainy days or let the kids explore and choose some books to take home.

Try Something New! There are loads of free and affordable hobbies – From the Air Cadets to arts and crafts; from cycling to kayaking - why not try something new?

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The Great SUMMER SAVERS

S

ummer is on its way so why not take advantage of the weather and get active by enjoying some of the local beauty spots. Here is a list of places you can go to get away from the stresses of life and enjoy some time with loved ones or escape on your own with a good book...

...Don’t forget your picnic! Tredegar Park

Sculpture Trail

There are playing fields and changing rooms for local sports clubs, a children’s play area, pitch and putt course, tennis courts and a skate park. www.newport.gov.uk/en/Leisure-Tourism/ Countryside--Parks/Parks

Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail is a 4 mile trail with sculptures inspired by the forest, trees and wildlife. There are various play structures along the way for the kids to play on. www.forestofdean-sculpture.org.uk

Newport

Linda Vista Gardens Abergavenny

Linda Vista Gardens is a well-preserved and richly-planted urban public park with origins as a private garden. This is demonstrated in the intricate layout of the formal part of the garden, and in the exceptional quality and variety of the planting, which includes unusual specimen trees and shrubs. www.parksandgardens.org/places-andpeople/site/6731

Amphitheatre Caerleon

At the National Roman Legion Museum, you can discover what life was like almost 2,000 years ago, while the close by Caerleon has a fully explorable amphitheatre (ideal for picnics), Roman Baths and an uncovered barracks. www.museum.wales/roman

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www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

Forest of Dean

Cyfarthfa Park Merthyr Tydfil

Remember to take your swimwear and towels to this 150 acre park of woodland and gardens where a Family Play Zone and Splash Park is sure to tempt the kids as well as the 1,000 ft Miniature Railway. www.visitmerthyr.co.uk/attractions/ cyfarthfa-park-museum

St Fagans Glamorgan

St Fagans National History Museum, commonly referred to as St Fagans after the village where it is located, is an open-air museum in Cardiff chronicling the historical lifestyle, culture, and architecture of the Welsh people. www.museum.wales/stfagans


Outdoors Moving to Universal Credit? We Can Help - 0345 677 2277

Ynysangharad Park & Lido

Clytha Estate

A stunning outdoor venue packed with events, sports and activities. Reptiles, magicians and pop bands are among the attractions offered during the programme of events. Make your

The Clytha Estate in Monmouthshire is a classic 18th-century landscaped park combining fine architecture, grand sweeping views and tranquil countryside in a timeless atmosphere. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sugarloaf-andusk-valley/features/clytha-estate

Pontypridd

own fun with the park’s lido, children’s adventure playground, tennis & basketball courts, cricket field, football pitches and wide open spaces. www.rctcbc.gov.uk/EN/Resident/ SportsandLeisure/Lido/Home.aspx

Abergavenny

Tintern Railway Station Tintern

The Old Station nestles beside the River Wye in the heart of the Wye Valley in Tintern. This idyllic 10 acre site boasts Blackwood A reservoir with flat open space for sports and the best of what Monmouthshire has to offer; fantastic food at the award winning kite flying, nature rambling and picnicking. tearoom, family events and live music There’s a wonderful Alien Invasion Trail throughout the summer, a brand new around the park that’s sure to keep them childrens play area and zip wire and a great moving and get imaginations going! base for walks along the Wye Valley. your.caerphilly.gov.uk/countryside/parks/ http://www.visitmonmouthshire.com/ pen-y-fan-pond things-to-do/old-station-tintern.aspx

Pen-y-fan Pond

Margam Country Park Port Talbot

Margam Country Park is 1,000 acres of countryside with a deer park, visitors’ centre, lake, castle, orangery, narrow gauge train, farm trail, Fairytale Village and adventure playground! www.margamcountrypark.co.uk

Goytre Wharf Goytre

A great day out on this interesting site for a gentle walk or picnic with family or friends. Enjoy an ice cream, or a cup of tea and cake from the on site café. There is so much to see and do with trails in the surrounding forest, walks alongside the Monmouth and Brecon Canal where you can see the varied array of boats in the marina. www.goytrewharf.com

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SUMMER SAVERS

t h g u o th for

Grub ‘n’ Go

Save a fortune by creating your own munchies to keep your munchkins going until family mealtimes...

Chocolate Crunch Bars

(24 squares)

• 200g caster Cost: sugar 10p each • 235ml golden syrup • 225g cereal • 300g butter/margarine • Chocolate Melt butter, sugar and golden syrup. Combine with cereal. Grease a large tray and spread and pack down mixture. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Melt a block of chocolate and spread over the top. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and slice up!

10 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

Oat & Fruit Biscuits (12)

• 75g (3 oz) self-raising flour • 75g (3 oz) Cost: porridge oats 3p each • 75g (3 oz) sugar • 75g (3 oz) butter • Dried fruit mix (or just cranberries, apricot or raisins) • 1 tablespoon golden syrup • 1 tablespoon milk Preheat oven to 180 C / Gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. • Sift the flour into a bowl. Mix in rolled oats and sugar. • Melt butter, syrup and milk in a saucepan and stir until heated through. Add to the premixed dry ingredients and chocolate chunks. Mix until well combined. Spoon onto a baking tray and shape into rounds. • Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before removing from tray.

Fruity Pancakes

• 2 large free-range eggs • 2 cups of plain flour • 2 cups of milk • Pinch of salt • ¾ cup of natural yoghurt Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Add ½ tablespoon of oil to a large frying pan, heat up and ladle the mixture and cook for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Try topping with chopped bananas, berries, ice cream, syrup, dollop of yoghurt, sliced orange or a squeeze of lemon juice. Cost:

8p each


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Food Is Fun Get Creative This Summer!

Healthy Start Vouchers Are you pregnant or have children under the age of four and in receipt of benefits? You could qualify for Healthy Start vouchers. With Healthy Start, you get free vouchers every week to spend on milk, plain fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, and infant formula milk. You can also get free vitamins. You qualify for Healthy Start if you’re at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old and you or your family get: • Income Support, or • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or • Child Tax Credit (with a family income of £16,190 or less per year) • Universal Credit (with a family take home pay of £408 or less per month) You also qualify if you are under 18 and pregnant, even if you don’t get any of the above benefits. Women and children getting Healthy Start food vouchers also get vitamin coupons to swap for free Healthy Start vitamins. Healthy Start vitamins are specifically designed for pregnant and breastfeeding women and growing children. Ask your midwife or health visitor for more information or visit www.healthystart.nhs.uk for an application form. twitter.com/mon_housing

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SUMMER SAVERS

Save £42 a Month on School Meals

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chool meals are a Did you know once your good way to ensure application is approved: • Your child will also have free that your child eats use of swimming pools and well at lunchtime, and some other leisure activities you can save yourself time within Monmouthshire Leisure and money by claiming Centres. A free Leisure Pass will be automatically activated your free school meal following approval. entitlement. It’s really easy and quick to apply – an online application can be made through Monmouthshire Council’s website: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk and search for ‘free school meals’.

• If they are in Year 7 they may be entitled to a Welsh Government (WG) clothing grant. • The school receives more funding: The more eligible parents who claim meals, the more funding the school receives, even if you don’t want your children to have the meals.

The following benefits will qualify:

• Income Support • Income based Jobseekers Allowance • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance • Child Tax Credit, provided they are not entitled to Working Tax Credit and their annual income does not exceed £16,190 • Guaranteed element of State Pension Credit • Working Tax Credit ‘run-on’ – the payment someone may receive for a further four weeks after they no longer qualify for Working Tax Credit You no longer need to provide your supporting documentation. Applications received during the academic year are processed within 5 to 10 days. If you need assistance accessing the application form or support in completing it, please contact the MHA Money Wise Team on 01495 745 769.

12 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

Don’t delay apply today!


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Community Engagement Programme

Summer 2017 MHA are promoting a wide and varied range of summer activities many of which are free including sponsored places for the Monmouthshire Games and Monmouthshire Games Plus, please refer to the leaflet for details. This year there really is something for everybody. We have linked up with partners such as Monmouthshire County Council, the Youth Service, local groups and also our very own lottery funded project Dads Can. This means that this year there is a huge amount of activities for children, families and individuals from the Leisure Centres’ Monmouthshire Games, local summer scheme play activities, day trips to Barry Island, Cardiff’s Techniquest and Bristol’s Noahs Ark Zoo Farm to trying your hand at Dry Stone Walling.

A full programme is included in the leaflet with this edition of Money Matters and if you would like to book or require further information on any of the activities please don’t hesitate to contact the Engagement Team 01495 767179 or email engagement. team@monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

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SUMMER SAVERS

Recipes

Pizza Night Ingredients

Method

• 500g plain flour • 2 teaspoon dried active baking yeast • 2 pinch salt • 600ml water • 2 tablespoon olive oil

Whisk together the flour, yeast and salt. Stir in the water and olive oil, adding more flour a little at a time if the dough is too sticky. Form the dough into a ball, cover and let the dough rest for 15 minutes. Split the mix into two pieces,

Toppingsuce

omato sa • Passata/t d ed or grate c li s , e s e e • Ch r you like! • Whateve

14 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

1. Preheat the oven to 200 C / Gas 6. Spread the dough onto generously floured baking trays. 2. Spread the passata over the pizza base, layer on the mozzarella cheese and add other ingredients as desired. 3. Bake in the preheated oven until the pizza base is puffed and golden, about 15 minutes.


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Pasta bake

Turkey Burgers

Ingredients

Ingredients

• 200g penne pasta • 4 large mushrooms, chopped • Cooked sausages or bacon (chopped) • 1 red onion (into chunks), chopped • 3 peppers (red, yellow, green), chopped • Garlic (3x cloves), chopped • 400g chopped tomatoes (1x tin) • Mixed herbs and seasoning

• 1 tbsp olive oil • 1 large onion finely chopped • 2 garlic cloves, crushed • 85g porridge oats • 450g/1lb minced turkey • 100g dried apricot, finely chopped • 1 large carrot grated • 1 egg beaten • Rolls and cucumber slices, to serve

Method 1. Cook pasta, once cooked drain and place in an oven proof dish – (only half fill the dish to allow for the rest of the ingredients) 2. Preheat oven 200C/Gas mark 6 3. Oven roast veg, herbs and sausages/bacon for 15 minutes 4. Add the chopped tomato and pour the vegetables and meat over the pasta gently mixing well 5. Top with cheese and breadcrumbs and place in the preheated oven for 1520 minutes

Method 1. Gently fry the onion in oil for 5 mins until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 min. Add the oats and fry for 2 mins more. Tip into a bowl and set aside to cool. 2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the cooled mixture and mix well with your hands. Season to taste and shape into 8 patties. 3. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan and sear the burgers on each side until well coloured (3-4 mins). Transfer to a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 10-15 mins. Serve in rolls with cucumber slices and a sauce of your choice.

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EDUCATION & TRAINING

16 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk


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A

ll the staff at Coleg Gwent’s impressive Ebbw Vale campus seem to know Kyle and greet him warmly – he’s clearly made a big impression on the people he’s met during his time at college. MHA tenant Kyle is about to finish a Diploma in Professional Cookery. He admits he’s unlikely to continue down the path to becoming a chef, but it’s clear that being in a college environment, meeting new people and trying new things, has had a positive effect on Kyle. Just over two years ago Kyle was faced with a very different challenge – homelessness. After a breakdown in family relations, Kyle found himself homeless and without the support networks many of us take for granted. Kyle is autistic and struggles with changes in routine, socialising and communicating. He’d never lived in his own place, let alone paid rent, bills or had to manage a budget.

MHA’s Housing Support service helped Kyle to move into his new flat. Staff then worked with Kyle to help him develop his own personalised support plan, enabling him to maximise his income, set up Direct Debit payments for his rent and bills and budget effectively. Fastforward two years and Kyle is settled in his home, busy with college and his local church and even looking at getting a passport together so he can make a trip abroad. Kyle explains: “I love coming into college. I often come in on my days off as I have a free bus pass and I’ve achieved a 100% attendance record this year. I’ve enjoyed many aspects of the cookery course, especially bread making. We’ve even put on large buffets for special college events. However, I’m not sure that cookery as a career is for me. I’ve got some big decisions to make over the next few weeks, but my ultimate aim is to go to University to study science.” “I think being in college and having a settled home life has given me the confidence to really focus on what I want to do for the rest of my life.” twitter.com/mon_housing

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EDUCATION & TRAINING

3 d n u o R 18 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk


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F

ollowing the success of the Pop Up Business School programme that ran in autumn 2016 and February this year, Pop Up Business School returns to Newport from Monday 11th to Friday 22nd September 2017 at the Gallery, Newport Market.

Pop Up Business School helps people set up their own businesses and get their big ideas off the ground. Based around a series of interactive workshops – from building a website for free to getting the confidence to start your own business – Pop Up Business School offers the ideal starting point to turn your ideas into reality. So if you have a passion you’d like to turn into a money making business – get in touch! Email catherine.murray@ monmouthshirehousing.co.uk to find out more or register your interest.

Pop Up Business School Monday 11th to Friday 22nd September 2017 The Gallery, Newport Market www.popupbusinessschool.co.uk twitter.com/mon_housing

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EDUCATION & TRAINING

Female Apprentices

T

wo female apprentices are challenging the lack of gender diversity in construction by starting work with MHA’s trading subsidiary Capsel. According to construction union UCCAT, women make up just 11% of the entire construction industry workforce. On building sites themselves, it is estimated that 99% of workers are men. But Tracy Riggs (plasterer) and Catherine Campbell (plumber) are smashing the status quo

to become the first female apprentices to work for Capsel. After spending many years working as a purchase ledger, Tracy decided to focus on a new career path in the construction industry. “I studied for a year at Coleg Gwent and my tutor thought I was showing good potential – he motivated me to develop my skills. I really enjoy plastering as in a short space of time you can totally transform how a room looks. You need to show a good sense of attention to detail and a steady hand.

20 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

“Capsel were open minded enough to see I had potential and to choose me for the role. It was amazing that from so many people who applied for the apprenticeship, I got the job!” Catherine worked in retail for about 12 years before deciding she’d had enough. She was always interested in trade work, particularly plumbing, so decided to start training at college. She now works four days on site and spends one day a week in college. She says: “It’s great making people happy at the end of the day. We make


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Set For Success things better for people. The guys I work with are great – they are really helpful. It’s a supportive environment, with some friendly banter!” MHA’s Deputy Head of Building Services, Becky Oliver, said: “It’s great to see more females wanting to work in the construction industry. Construction has traditionally been stereotyped as man’s work, but more and more women are entering this challenging field and succeeding. They are proving women have the skills and are equally as capable and as

efficient doing the same work as men. “Catherine and Tracy have been working with MHA since September last year. They are both doing really well and it’s fantastic to see their skills and confidence growing. Everyone who’s worked with Catherine and Tracy have given positive feedback. They’re not afraid of hard work and I am sure both are set for a very successful career in the construction industry.”

the role of women in property services, traditionally an area dominated by males. Many key roles are now occupied by women, and the three apprentices currently with the MHA group are female. We continue to offer flexi-leave and other benefits, such as sponsored training, where appropriate, way over and above the private sector, to allow staff to have the full benefit of both their private and professional lives.”

John Keegan MHA’s CEO said: “I believe we have had real success here, particularly in elevating twitter.com/mon_housing

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EDUCATION & TRAINING

Work & Skills Wise Stats MHA’s inclusion services offer proactive help and support to tenants to alleviate short-term and long-term poverty issues. The Work & Skills Wise service addresses long-term poverty and aims to help tenants find and retain employment.

Work & Skills Wise Service has:

170

Supported tenants through internally funded projects

12 participants

continue to be supported through our in work support

20

tenants have been supported into Volunteering

13 service users

120 service users

engaged on our EU funded project Monmouthshire Employment Pathway

engaged with our DWP funded project Pathway to Careers

26 people have been

2 tenants are now

supported with selfemployment – via Pop Up Business school

18 qualifications have been gained

22 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

self-employed and trading

£3,959.04

of bursaries awarded by MHA

35

A total of people gained employment this financial year

17

tenants have received computer in the community laptops


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Money Wise Stats The Money Wise service deals with immediate poverty issues such as offering advice in relation to debt, benefit, food and fuel poverty.

The Money Wise Service: 489 tenants in 2016 -2017.

£87,393

Helped gain in:

£95,808

Worked with

Money Wise Debt: Identified:

Total:

£229,438

Total:

£340,597

£23,906

Managed:

£280

£3,512

£4,117

£450

WHD

Utility Gas Write off

Water Meter

Energy & Gas Switch

WWA

DHP

Housing Benefit

CTB

Working Tax Credits

ESA Backdate

ESA Appeal

Fuel Poverty Employment Support Allowance

Child Tax Credits

Income Support

Job Seeker’s Allowance

DAF

DAF Appeal

Personal Independence Payments

Benevolent Fund

Child Benefit

CSA Payments

Carers Allowance

Pension Credit

Welfare Benefits Attendance Allowance

£43,027

£15,547

£19,948 £2,240

£8,541

Assisted with writing off: £24,601 £5,795

£7,848

£3,010

£5,555

£900

£4,774

£300

£2,152

£6,458

£2,756

£20,011 £6,968

£35,535

£165,593

Arrears: Arrears at the start of Money Wise intervention:

£173,078

Arrears at the end of Money Wise intervention:

£120,213

Difference:

£52,865

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EDUCATION & TRAINING

24 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk


Volunteering Pays Off

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“I NEVER THOUGHT I’D GET AN OFFICE JOB!” “At first I found it difficult even going up the stairs to the main office area, I was so short of confidence. My legs would go to jelly! Now I love it up here, being around everyone, taking calls, keeping busy – MHA is a great place to work.” MHA tenant Tracy has come a long way since she first started volunteering with MHA. She is now working in a paid position as a trainee, supporting MHA’s Engagement team with a wide range of administrative tasks. “I’d only really worked as a cleaner or had the odd job in factories before, and I’d been out of work for a significant amount of time when I first met the Work and Skills Wise team. A Work and Skills Wise officer originally came to visit my daughter to see how they could help her. I explained that I was also keen to get back into work, but felt low on confidence and didn’t have much experience with anything other than cleaning.” The Work and Skills Wise team worked with Tracy to help her build her skills using email, computers and the web. The team felt volunteering with MHA would be a great way for Tracy to boost her confidence and develop her communication

skills in an office environment. “Although I felt nervous at first, the chance to volunteer with MHA, meet new people, build my confidence and get experience of working in an office was a great opportunity. I volunteered on reception and early on I remember walking upstairs to drop a letter off and seeing so many people! I felt a bit overwhelmed at first, but I soon got used to it. “I volunteered with MHA for one year and felt my confidence grow every day. I was taking calls, meeting and greeting people, arranging meetings – all sorts of things. I never thought I’d be able to get an office job, but by the end of my volunteering placement I felt I was ready to apply for one. When the opportunity to apply for the trainee position came about I knew I wanted to apply, but it meant I’d have to have a job interview – something I’d not done in 18 years! “When I got the job it was a great feeling. Although it’s not permanent, I feel confident in my own abilities again and I can apply for other admin roles. MHA has given me the confidence to know I can do more than just low-paid cleaning jobs. I’d recommend volunteering to anyone, it’s a great way to get real work experience and build your work skills.” twitter.com/mon_housing

25


EDUCATION & TRAINING

Finding the Right Career Path Pathway to Careers and Active Inclusion are two employment focused MHA services that have made a big impact in helping MHA tenants into work, training and education this year. Pathway to Careers came to an end this summer, after working with 116 people in a range of ways over 12 months. The scheme helped people build their confidence and motivation to apply for work as well as helping people get the skills and training they need to find a job. Meanwhile, MHA’s Active Inclusion service is providing 12 paid, supported work placements to people in Monmouthshire seeking work.

Those on work placements have been taken on by a range of organisations and businesses and in a number of different roles – including Cosgrove Construction, Pink Angels agency – and MHA! MHA’s Work and Skills Wise service secured funding through the European Social Fund to deliver the Active Inclusion service.

26 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

Watch the Pathway to Careers film at https://youtu.be/_ Q2Uc3sNlDc


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Mandy Blossoms at Work “It’s at this time of year, during the spring and summer months, that things get really busy!”

MHA tenant Mandy has worked at Millbrook Garden Centre in Monmouth for over 12 years. It’s something of a family affair – both of Mandy’s sons also work at the garden centre. Mandy says being in work full time, in a job she enjoys, means she feels in control of her rent, bills and finances, and she has money to do the things she loves – especially travelling. “Having a steady job, with wages coming in every month, I do feel in control of my own situation. I enjoy my job, there are different things going on every day and different jobs to do as the seasons change. I love

gardening, and even though I’m in a flat, there is lots you can do. I’m quite a traveller too. I enjoy my holidays, going abroad. In fact I’m only just back from Poland which was fantastic and I’m off on holiday abroad with my grandchildren soon.” Keen Money Matters reader Mandy was the lucky winner of the luxury hamper on offer in the last edition of Money Matters after completing our online survey.

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27


WELFARE REFORM

Watch a short film with Anita and Jessie at https://youtu.be / nL94qOx1nWc

Universal Credit y r o Anita’s St

A

fter losing her job at the beginning of 2016, MHA tenant Anita was advised by her local Job Centre to apply for Universal Credit – the government’s new benefits payment system. Universal Credit is a single, monthly payment replacing Jobseeker’s Allowance and other work-related benefits and was introduced in Monmouthshire in September 2015. The Universal Credit payment includes rent, which people then need to arrange to pay to their landlord themselves. This differs from the old system in which rent was paid directly to the landlord. Currently, single people in work who lose their job are invited to apply for Universal Credit.

The Universal Credit application takes upwards of five weeks to process, meaning those moving on to the system face a significant period without any money coming in. Anita admits she found the weeks without money difficult. And even though she soon found work again, the differing amounts coming in each month (Universal Credit is designed to automatically respond to fluctuations in earnings) meant she initially struggled to manage her money, and slipped into arrears with her rent. “For me, the transition to Universal Credit was difficult. It took a while to get my head around it.” Fortunately, Anita had contacted MHA as soon as she learned she’d be moving on to Universal Credit.

28 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

“I’ve had great help from Cally and Jessie (MHA Income Officers) over the last year. Cally originally helped me with my Universal Credit claim forms and Jessie has been a real help with tackling my rent arrears. She’s helped me to budget more effectively and arranged with MHA for me to pay a bit extra when I can, so I have a little extra aside if things are tight. “I feel in a lot more control of my situation. My advice to anyone new to Universal Credit is to contact MHA – they really can help. I’ve got three jobs and the positive side of it is that my payments adapt automatically according to work, which is busy at some times of the year and quieter at others. And I’m in credit with my rent now!”


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Affected by the Bedroom Tax? Keen to downsize? Looking to move to a new area? Try HomeSwapper!

www.homeswapper.co.uk

WARNING!

You may have to wait six weeks for your first Universal Credit payment to come through from the DWP… Prepare now and save yourself a lot of stress later on! Why not downsize to a smaller home and reduce your monthly outgoings?

SAVE

There are over 30 weeks until Universal Credit kicks in so save whatever you can between now and then.

HERE’S HOW…

• Get saving using a good old fashioned bank or building society savings account • Free up some cash every week by dabbling in ‘extreme couponing’! Get into the habit of seeking out money saving coupons to reduce your shopping bills: o Cashback apps such as CheckOutSmart

o Coupon sites (i.e. Supersavvyme.com or Caringeveryday.co.uk) for savings on household items • Join the savings club at your favourite supermarket. Just ask instore: o Morrison saver stamps o Wilko saver card o Iceland Bonus Card o Co-op Saver o Asda Saving Stamps twitter.com/mon_housing

29


WELFARE REFORM

Neil & Jessie “Rent has always been my first priority every month. I’d never been in rent arrears, but after moving on to Universal Credit and finding myself owing money for my rent – it was very stressful. I was worried.” Neil moved on to the government’s Universal Credit system just before Christmas last year. Universal Credit is a single, monthly payment replacing many individual benefits that was introduced in Monmouthshire in 2015. The first Universal Credit monthly payment usually takes around six weeks to arrive in someone’s account after they have applied. Neil admits he struggled with no money coming in and that’s when he began to fall behind with his rent. He was also suffering with depression and felt overwhelmed by his situation. “I’d never been in this type of

situation before. I was confused by Universal Credit and how it all worked. But I manged to get an advance payment and that helped me a lot. “Jessie [MHA Income Officer] has helped me enormously. She started by getting me to budget more effectively. I work out how much my bills are each month, identify the most important costs and then work out what I need to pay and when, then look at how much I have left over for food and other necessities. “I’ve got my priorities straight and I feel in control again. By Christmas I know I’ll be £120 better off and no longer in arrears – that’s a big thing for me.” Jessie also suggested Neil get in touch with MHA’s Work and Skills Wise team. Work and Skills Wise helps people get the skills they need to get back into work, education and training.

30 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

Neil has always loved cooking and creating new dishes from scratch. Cath from the Work and Skills Wise team helped Neil enrol on to MHA’s Jamie Oliver Cooking Course and get a food hygiene certificate. Neil said he felt energised again after the courses and decided to attend Pop Up Business School in Newport. Pop Up Business School is an innovative series of workshops, sponsored by MHA, that teaches people the skills they need to set-up their own businesses quickly and easily. “I make food using recipes from all around the world. I had a stall at Newport market that I used to sell my food, including my speciality breakfast pie! “My hope for the future is to clear my debts, and get my own food stall up and running and making money. I know it’s a challenge, but I’ve faced bigger challenges in my life, so I know I can do it!”


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Make r ou rent y this ity prior mer sum rth of

wo £500 s to give her vouc * away

*Terms and conditions apply

• There are 5 lots of £100 vouchers to be won • Automatically entered if you pay your rent on time • Winners will be drawn on 5th September If you are unsure how much to pay or you are struggling to pay your rent call the Income Team on 01495 761016. Terms & Conditions

• You must pay your rent on time (including any agreement for rent debt) to be entered into the prize draw. • Open from 21st July - 4th September 2017

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31


WELFARE REFORM

Tackling the Benefit Cap By Sarah Jones, MHA Benefits & Money Advisor

“I first visited Mr and Mrs Smith in the Autumn of 2016. The Money Wise team had received a referral from MHA Income Officer, Cally, following joint visits with Mr and Mrs Smith to discuss the reduced benefit cap. The changes mean benefits are now capped at £20,000 a year for couples with or without children and £13,400 for single people in Wales.

“I spoke mainly with Mrs Smith, as Mr Smith sat in an adjacent room listening. He has anxiety that effects his ability to communicate with people. We discussed the benefit cap and looked at how to save money and budget differently. In addition, I suggested that we should try to apply for a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) as this would take them out of the

32 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

benefit cap. We made the initial phone call for the PIP application that day, and I referred Mrs Smith to Work and Skills wise for support around getting into work. “Mr Smith’s PIP application was refused in January following his medical assessment in Newport. During my next appointment with Mr and Mrs Smith we


Moving to Universal Credit? We Can Help - 0345 677 2277 discussed the next steps: Mandatory reconsideration (asking DWP to look at their decision again), then appeal. I felt that Mr Smith’s condition did merit an appeal, however, he did not feel that he would be able to sit in a tribunal, therefore I decided to push the boat out with a reconsideration. “With Mr Smith’s permission, I contacted his Doctor and requested additional information about his condition, the letter returned was so detailed and specific that MHA agreed to pay £50 from the hardship fund to cover the cost. “I detailed every point that we disagreed with in relation to the DWP decision, and included statements from Work and Skills wise and Mr Smith’s family detailing his struggles and the effect of this on his family. “Mr Smith was finally awarded PIP on 20/4/2017. He was awarded the standard rate of

care paid at £55.10 per week, this amount was backdated to October 2016 and £1408.99 back pay was paid into their account. The PIP award means that the family are no longer part of the benefit cap, and all deductions in housing benefit over this period was also backdated, totalling £786.68. In addition to this, Mr Smith’s ESA will increase, as he will now be in the support group, and he will receive an extra £36.55 per week. Their income following Money Wise intervention has increased by £116.09 per week. Arrears at the beginning of intervention were £150, tenants are now in credit by £576.56. “During the time I was working with the family, they have managed to keep on top of their rent despite the additional amounts they have had to pay. However, the emotional toll on this family has been huge, and Mrs Smith in particular has struggled with the stress of the situation.”

#F o

0

“Following help provided by Helena from the Work & Skills Wise Team, Mrs Smith is starting work through MHA’s Active Inclusion project, working 25 hours per week, for 25 weeks with the Pink Angels Office Support Service in Abergavenny.”

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33


WELFARE REFORM

Switching Your Energy Supplier By Andrew Johnson

Citizens Advice are an independent advice service. This means that the comparison tool includes information for all available suppliers.

Citizens Advice have recently released a new online Energy Comparison Tool: https:// energycompare.citizensadvice. org.uk/

If you switch you may prefer to trade some of your savings to be with a company with good customer service.

In addition they give the main suppliers a customer service rating, scored out of 5, which is based upon the suppliers’ performance on complaints, ease of contact, billing clarity and ease of switching. See below table for Oct-Dec 2016 ratings.

If you want to save money but are uncertain about the process or you’re already in a deal, in debt with your existing supplier or you receive Warm Home Discount, just contact the Money Wise team for advice on what’s right for you.

The ratings for October - December 2016 were: Supplier Ecotricity Flow Energy Economy Energy SSE EDF Energy Utility Warehouse First Utility E (Gas & Electricity) British Gas E.ON Energy Green Star Energy OVO Energy Utilita Spark Energy Co-operative Energy npower Scottish Power Extra Energy

Complaints 3 3 3 5 5 3 3 4 4 4 2 3 3 2 1 3 2 1

34 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

Ease of Contact 5 5 5 5 4 5 5 4 3 3 5 5 3 5 5 3 3 2

Bill clarity 5 4 5 2 2 4 3 3 2 2 3 3 3 2 3 2 2 4

Ease of switching 5 5 4 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 3 5 5 5 4 5 4

Overall rating 4.25 4.25 4 4 4 4 4 3.75 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.25 3.25 3.25 3 2.75 2.5


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House of the Rising Sun By Andrew Johnson

If you have solar panels installed on your property, which over 1,000 of you do, you are in the enviable position of getting some of your electricity for free. There must be a catch I hear you say. No catch, but are you optimising the benefit to you. Here’s a few tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of your solar power: 1) Make sure the panels are free from shade and obstruction It’s spring time and trees etc. are growing and leafing up. Check there aren’t any shadows being cast on to your panels.

2) Install a Smart Meter The portable display on the smart meter tells you how much electricity you are paying for. Make sure this shows zero during the daytime to ensure you are only using free solar electricity. (see separate article on smart meters)

3) Use high energy appliances during the day Whether it’s the washing machine, dishwasher, shower, oven, iron, vacuum cleaner or any other high energy appliance, use them during the day when you can get electricity for free. If you’re in work during the day use appliance timers or plugs with timers to optimise when appliances run.

4) Use energy efficient appliances

7) Reduce your electric consumption

Make sure your white goods are energy efficient. If you are on benefits or low income you may be entitled to free replacement of old appliances by your energy supplier.

The solar electricity you generate will go much further if you reduce the amount of electric you use. Simple things include :-

5) Use appliances one at a time Your solar power system has a maximum output so using only one of the high energy appliances at a time should help you use only free electricity. Again this is the benefit of the SMART meter display. If someone in the house turns on too much it will warn you that you’re now paying for electric and you can quickly switch something off.

6) Charge your rechargeable devices during the day

a) Don’t leave items on standby b) Don’t leave the telly on while you’re out of the room c) Only boil the amount of water you need d) Keep those showers short e) Make sure there’s a full load in the washing machine and wash on 30 degrees f) Use LED’s for your lighting. Getting the most out of the electricity generated by your solar panels can make a huge difference to your electricity costs.

Whether it’s your phone, tablet, laptop, electric drill/bike/ lawnmower battery etc. recharge them during the day when it’s free. Of course if they should run down during the evening you could always talk to the family instead, I’m sure they’re really nice people when you get to know them!

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35


WELFARE REFORM

Get Smart & Save Money on Your Energy Bills By Andrew Johnson

To help the nation reduce their energy bills, the government are making the energy companies replace, for free, 53m traditional meters in 30m properties with new smart meters by the end of 2020. To date, over 3.5m smart meters have already been installed. Smart meters electronically record your energy usage and then: 1. Automatically send it to your energy supplier at an agreed interval (the more frequent the better for the customer going forward) 2. Constantly send it to your in-home portable display electricity is updated every 10 seconds and gas every 30 minutes

The Benefits of Smart Meters Smart meters and in-home displays deliver important benefits to individuals: 1. Via the in-home portable display, they put you in visual control of your energy use 2. No more estimated meter readings. You pay for what you use 3. No more digging around in the cupboard to take readings 4. No up front costs for installation

Whilst all in home displays may look different, by law they must all display the same basic information: • Energy used in the last hour, week, month and its cost • If electricity usage is low, medium or high • Updates in near real time for electricity and every half hour for gas In addition smart meters for prepay customers must also show: • How much credit you have left • Balance of emergency credit • Debt balance • An alert if your credit is low

Installation Energy suppliers and their installers need to abide by certain guidelines at each stage of the installation process, most notably that they are NOT allowed to engage in marketing and sales activity. They will: • Demonstrate the home display • Provide written support materials to back up advice • Give energy efficiency advice • Refer to additional, impartial sources of information

36 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

What’s the catch? The benefits of smart meters are high but there are a couple of areas to be aware of: 1. Currently smart meters only transmit readings to the supplier that installed them. In practice this means that if you had a smart meter installed and then later on switched your supplier, you would have to go back to sending meter readings manually for a period of time. This will change next year but it just means that it’s worth doing a review of your gas and electric supplier first to make sure you are on the best deal (see separate article). Having secured the best deal you can then ask your new supplier for their smart meter to be installed. 2. If the smart meter is installed as part of a switch, as with current pre-pay meters there may be penalty clauses in the new suppliers contract that penalise you if you try and leave the deal early. Neither of these areas should put you off considering getting a smart meter and the Money Wise team is here to help you if needed.

For more information you can speak to your current energy supplier or go online to www.smartenergygb.org


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In Work & Finding it Hard to Make Ends Meet?

If so, you’re not alone! We are coming across a number of tenants who are in work and still finding it hard to pay the bills. Some of the key reasons people are struggling include: • Taking on low paid work and zero hour contracts • Not having the right skills or training to get a better job in an existing role • Not having the time or money to undertake training MHA is committed to supporting our tenants facing in-work poverty. We are looking to research the subject to help us understand both the scale of the problem and what solutions we can provide to help people in the future.

Our Work and Skills Wise service helps MHA tenants get all sorts of jobs, but we want to do more to ensure the people we are supporting into work are not being pushed into in-work poverty. We want to be able to offer people the right support so they can progress in work and aspire to reach as high as possible in their careers. There is a range of help we can offer through Work and Skills Wise, including financial support, but many working MHA tenants choose not to get help from MHA. For instance our Bursary Scheme can help you pay for a course or training. We can offer 121

support to help you prepare for an interview, or careers advice if you are looking to find a job that suits you or change your job. So we want to hear from you! We would like to hear from MHA tenants who are in work about why they may not use this type of support. If you are interested in talking to us about how you’ve been affected by in-work poverty or about how you can access support from MHA, please call us on 01495 745769 or email moneywise@ monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

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37


WAYS TO PAY

Ways to Pay Your Rent DIRECT DEBIT

STANDING ORDER

• If you would like to pay your rent by Direct Debit please contact us on 01495 745770 or 01495 761109 to set up over the phone • A Direct Debit can be set up for any day of the month and for any frequency including weekly, fortnightly, monthly, four weekly and quarterly. Please advise us when you call your preferred choice

• You can set up a Standing Order with your bank or building society to pay an amount on a day or date you decide • Payments are credited to your account within 2 working days • Standing Orders are made between you and your bank or building society and cannot be varied by MHA

ONLINE PAYMENT

INTERNET BANKING

• Payments are made via MHA’s website – www. monmouthshire housing.co.uk • Payments are credited to your account within 2 working days • Please note - ensure you give your tenancy reference or property address when making payments - otherwise we will not be able to credit the payment to your account

• If you use internet banking via your bank or building society’s website or mobile phone app, you can set up MHA as a payee for your rent using Account Number 40601837 and Sort Code 20-00-85 • Please note - ensure you give your tenancy reference or property address when making payments - otherwise we will not be able to credit the payment to your account

38 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

TELEPHONE

PAYMENT CARD

• You can make a payment over the phone using a debit or credit card by calling us free on 0303 123 1127 - Select option 2 between 8.30am and 5.00pm (Monday to Thursday) or between 8.30am and 4:30pm (Friday) • Payments are credited to your account the same day

• A payment card can be used at any Post Office or outlet displaying the ‘PayPoint Logo’ • Payments are credited to your account in 3 – 4 working days from the date paid • All receipts must be kept as proof of payment • Please call 01495 745770 to order a rent payment card

CHEQUE

CASH

• Please make cheques payable to Monmouthshire Housing Association Ltd and post to: Monmouthshire Housing Association, Nant-Y-Pia House, Mamhilad Technology Park, Mamhilad, Monmouthshire, NP4 0JJ • Payments may take up to 5 working days to be credited to your account

• Cash can be paid into any branch of Barclays Bank using Account Number 40601837 and Sort Code 20-00-85 • All receipts must be kept as proof of payment


Moving to Universal Credit? We Can Help - 0345 677 2277

Changes to your Water Char­ges We recently wrote to you informing you that Monmouthshire Housing Association (MHA) will no longer bill and collect your water and sewerage charges. This is currently collected with your rental payment. From 3rd October 2017 Dwr Cymru Welsh Water will be billing you for these charges. They will contact you directly in early July with more information and, wherever possible, keep your existing payment method the same. Your new water and sewerage bill is likely to arrive no later than the 10th of October 2017.

We also sent you some guidance on what you should do to help with this change over. It is important that you make the necessary arrangements for your payments. Please visit our frequently asked questions at www. monmouthshirehousing.co.uk If you have any concerns or queries regarding how much you need to continue paying MHA for your rent please contact Alison Smith on 01495 745770. Visit www.monmouthshirehousing. co.uk/changes-to-water-billing for more information.

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39


DODGING SUMMER DEBT

Avoid the By MHA Volunteer Kirsty Bowen

There are many different ways to pay for things. For example Post, Direct Debit or telephone to name a few. Some incur charges and some do not. Here is a summary of all the different ways you can pay for your everyday needs:

Cash

Loan Sharks lure us in with seemingly quick and easy access to cash during tough times – but the dangers of borrowing money from loan sharks can be very real. You’ll find a special guide with all the information you need about avoiding the dangers of loan sharks inside this edition of Money Matters.

Cash is usually the cheapest way to pay for things, because you know exactly how much you have to hand over. However, accessing cash can be expensive. Your bank may charge a withdrawal fee at their branches or ATM’s, and it can be more expensive when you use another banks ATM.

TOP TImPany

ow Find out h make ls you can a w a r d h it w da are charge u o y e r fo e b at w much th fee and ho fee is.

Direct Debit Direct Debit is an instruction from you to your bank or building society. It authorises your bank or building society to deduct the sufficient funds in order to pay your bills. It is the simplest and most convenient way for you to pay regular and occasional bills. When paying by Direct Debit be sure to leave

40 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

enough money in the bank for other expenses such as, groceries, rent, TV and other bills.

Cheque Depending on what sort of account you have most banks charge you for having a cheque account and paying by cheque. If you have a cheque and you do not have the sufficient funds in your account then the bank will charge you a dishonour fee. Make sure you understand all charges and keep an eye on your account and always make sure you have the sufficient funds.

TOP TIP

When you write a cheque, cr os words ‘or b s out the earer’ so th at the chequ e cannot b e cashed if s tolen.

Debit Card A debit card is your bank card. It allows you to transfer money electronically from their bank account when making a


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Credit Card Trap purchase. Merchants may offer cash back facilities to customers, where a customer can withdraw cash along with their purchase.

Credit Cards One of the benefits of using a credit card is that you do not have to have the funds in your account to make a purchase. Because unlike the debit card it is not connected to your current account. Your credit card has a separate account in which you can purchase things or withdraw cash up to your credit limit. You will have to repay at least the minimum instalment by the payment date or you will incur default fees. For all credit cards since April 2011, minimum payment levels must be at least 1% of the balance plus that month’s interest, any default charges and the annual fee (if there is one). When using your credit card you need to understand the definition of APR. Once you know your APR you’ll roughly know the cost of borrowing.

However, the full amount you end up paying back depends on: • How much you pay back each month • How long it takes you to pay back that money, and • How you use your credit amount when you are paying it off On a basic level, borrowing money at an APR of 20% means that over a year you will pay back the amount of money you borrowed plus 20% of that amount. For example, let’s start with a simple sum. If you borrowed £1,000 and paid it back over one year, with an APR of 20% you would have to pay back the £1,000 plus 20% of that amount, £200. This means you would pay back £1,200 in total, equivalent to £100 per month. It really is as simple as that.

TOP TIP

You can av oid paying interest on purchases if you pay yo ur balance in full each m onth.

TOP TIrPcredit

you Improving lower the rating can u interest yo f o t n u o m a dit. pay on cre

APR – Annual Percentage Rate Whenever you pay for something using your credit card you will usually find there is an interest rate applied to it. The APR is the yearly cost of borrowing. This is what you will pay on top of the money you borrow. twitter.com/mon_housing

41


DODGING SUMMER DEBT

Saving Alternatives:

Loans Saving is the most cost effective way to purchase goods however that is not always possible. Loans are a common way to help relieve the burden of a sudden expense or a way of financing large items. But beware! Not all loans are equal or offer value for money. However using savings is not always an option. If this is the case, there are some alternatives available such as bank or Credit Union loans. If you do opt for a loan beware of illegal lenders and check the level of interest before signing up. Each lender will have their own levels of interest and repayment options. Credit Unions or banks will have lower levels of interest rates which makes them a cheaper and safer alternative when it comes to borrowing money; as the amount needed to be repaid overall will be significantly lower. Unfortunately not everyone is accepted for a bank or Credit Union loan. If your loan application is rejected and you have no savings, where do you turn? Door step or pay days loans can offer a quick financial solution, often offering money

in your account the same day or incentives to apply for a loan. But borrowers will face high interest rates as companies seek to make a profit. Illegal lenders or loan sharks can cause devastating financial problems. Lending is unregulated and often on the terms of the lender. Extortionate interest rates, even higher than those charged by loan companies, can make even relatively small loans hard to pay back. Loan sharks are notorious for using threats or violence against their borrowers who can find themselves unprotected if they are unable to pay back their loan. Alternatively don’t get caught out and start saving your cash to help you save money in the long run! Check out our graphic to discover how much your loan can cost you.

42 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

What You Will Pay Savings or Credit Union

Loan Company

Loan Shark


Moving to Universal Credit? We Can Help - 0345 677 2277

Saving: Gateway Credit Union Voucher

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With the pressures of everyday life saving for the future can be the last thing on your mind. With the roll out of Universal Credit just around the corner starting to save or opening a savings account has never been a better idea. Saving money can provide a safety net and allow you to feel financially secure in an emergency and reduce the need to take out a loan, which can be costly and could result in further financial hardship. Credit Unions can be a fantastic way to save for many. Whether it’s for Christmas, a rainy day or for the new washing machine there will be a savings account for you. Gateway Credit Union is open to new members and can help find the best way to save for you. Join other MHA tenants who are saving with Gateway Credit

Union and MHA will help kick start your savings by offering a £10 bonus, when tenants start to save regularly with the Credit Union and pay your £1 joining fee. Be prepared for surprise expenses and start saving now.

To find out more about saving with Gateway Credit Union, please call the MHA Money Wise Team on 01495 76116 or Gateway Credit Union on 01495 742000 or go to www.gatewatcyu.co.uk

Identity theft and Financial Fraud How to Avoid the Scams

The latest Annual Fraud Indicator, based on research from Portsmouth University, said the cost of fraud carried out directly against individuals is now thought to be £9.7bn a year. Identity fraud is the largest contributor at almost £5.4bn. There are a lot of telephone and internet scams out there – Take Five is a great website with some invaluable hints and tips around avoiding identity theft and financial fraud. https://takefive-stopfraud. org.uk/scam-academy/

Top 5 tips for avoiding Fraud: 1. Never disclose security details, such as your PIN or full banking password 2. Don’t assume an email, text or phone call is authentic 3. Don’t be rushed – a genuine organisation won’t mind waiting 4. Listen to your instincts – you know if something doesn’t feel right 5. Stay in control – don’t panic and make a decision you’ll regret twitter.com/mon_housing

43


DODGING SUMMER DEBT

By MHA Volunteer Kirsty Bowen

W

hen choosing a mobile phone you need to give some thought into how much you use your handset. Pay-asyou-go mobile phones are often the cheaper option for light users. While for cheap internet, texting and calls a tariff is usually the cheaper option. Once you have committed to a mobile phone contract you are tied down to a plan for certain amount of time whether it be 12 months or 24 months you are committed to make your payments on time, each month. Make sure you do your research into which contract is best for you or you could be left reeling.

Pay-as-you-go Pay-as-you-go is exactly what it says on the tin, you pay as and when you need it. You’re not tied down to a monthly contract which means you are in total control of where your money goes. Another advantage of a pay-as-you-go phone is that it allows you to cap your monthly

spending, which is great for those who like to keep an eye on their bank balance.

Monthly contract Having a pay monthly contract means that you pay a single monthly fee for a fixed period of time. Either 12 or 24 months. This provides you with a handset and a monthly allowance of call, texts and data. There are all different types of tariffs for you to choose from. When choosing a monthly contract it is essential that you choose the right package to suit your needs.

SIM only deals A SIM only deal is much the same as a monthly contract however they tend to be a lot cheaper and you only the get the SIM and not the phone. If you are keen on a SIM only deal then you need to decide which type of SIM card you need. BEWARE there are three different sizes of SIM cards. The standard SIM, Micro SIM and the Nano SIM. They all fit different types of smartphones so be sure to buy the right one to fit your smartphone.

44 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk


Moving to Universal Credit? We Can Help - 0345 677 2277

TOP TIP

Always read the small print! Terms and Conditio ns apply.

TOP TitI?P

Bad cred On www. rmarket. moneysupe n visit com you ca dit the ‘Bad cre nes’ mobile pho e page for som advice.

TOP TIP

While your m obile phone is stil l active, ask your pro vider for a porting auth orisation code – or – P AC – and then give th is to the new operato r. They will usually then be able to ‘port’ your o ld number to your new contract, sparing you the main hassle of a n ew mobile phone tariff .

Credit Union By MHA Volunteer Charlotte Jones “When my daughter moved back home with me in 2012, I realised I needed to secure larger accommodation as I was living in a one bedroom property. I approached MHA and applied for rehousing. “Shortly afterward I was offered the tenancy of a two bedroom home for myself and my daughter. When I went to view and sign for the property my biggest concern was getting enough money together for new carpets. “I was given a pack by my new housing officer which contained some useful advice and information on the Credit Union. I had never heard of them before and I was unsure that I would qualify for a loan as I had a history of previous credit problems, I was long term unemployed and on benefits. I contacted their Abergavenny branch and went in to fill out an application and to check my eligibility, I was assisted by a very friendly lady who was very understanding towards my current situation. I took in proof of benefit and a bank statement as proof of address. “The process was extremely quick, I was completely honest about my previous credit problems and they put my application forward for

consideration. Within a few days I received a telephone call to say that my application was successful and I could order my carpets. I was completely overjoyed! I went back to the office and signed the paperwork and the money was in my account the same day. “There were no extortionate interest rates like some doorstep loan companies and they even encouraged me to save alongside my repayments, so that by the time I had paid my loan off I had a lump sum, almost a bonus for all my hard work of never missing a payment! “The best thing was that they were able to take the money directly from my benefit making sure I never missed a payment and repairing my credit score. That was four years ago and I have had a further two loans since that first time. “I don’t have any outstanding loans with them at the moment, however I have become so used to that amount being taken that I have just continued to pay it, but now it’s my own savings account. “I am going on a hot holiday this year! I never imagined that I could ever save anything but the Credit Union has really helped me balance my finances. I would recommend to anyone rather than payday loans or doorstep lenders.” twitter.com/mon_housing

45


DODGING SUMMER DEBT

Hidden Extras s e n o h P e l i b o of M By MHA Volunteer Kirsty Bowen

Nobody likes to be surprised when they check their monthly phone bill to find additional charges added on. Extra charges on phone bills are not a new phenomenon, with people now using their phone bill for competition entries, charity donations and TV show voting. Companies such as Spotify and iTunes now allow customers to pay for their services by adding it onto their monthly bill. However some extra charges ranging from sending group or picture messages, in-app purchases to inputting emoji’s can be less expected. Text messaging is one of the worst offenders when it comes to hidden charges and there are many ways customers’ bills are sky rocketing as a result. There are countless examples of people receiving higher than expected phone bills because they have used emoji’s or smileys in their messages. Many older handsets automatically convert standard SMS messages to a picture message or MMS once an emoji has been entered. On many phone contracts these type of messages are not included in the contract plan or covered by ‘unlimited texts’ and the customer is charged. Converting a text to MMS is not unique to emoji’s. Texts will be converted – and charged additionally – if a message is sent to a group of people,

have attachments and in some instances are over a certain length. Ensuring you are not hit with a hefty phone bill for using emoji’s can be as simple as checking your setting to change the input method. Turning off MMS or sending shorter messages are an alternative for ensuring texts do not get converted. To help save some cash it is worth think about using an alternative messaging service such as WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts. Instant messaging apps are standard on most smartphones and have seen their numbers rise over the last few years. These apps work by using mobile data or WIFI to send and receive messages and all allow group messages and picture messages –and the use of emoji’s - for no additional charge.

46 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

Key Facts

• People sent three times as many messages on Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp in 2015 as they did via SMS • 50% more messages are sent each day on WhatsApp than are sent on SMS according to Ofcom • 4% of people asked by Ofcom experienced higher bills due to sending picture messages not included in their monthly text allowance • Some providers will charge up to 40p for an emoji


Moving to Universal Credit? We Can Help - 0345 677 2277

Data Roaming Charge Changes Another culprit for adding extra costs to your bill is using a phone abroad. From 15th June phone users will see a major change in how data roaming and phone use abroad works. Holiday makers will now be able to use their regular data, text and call allowances whilst in the EU; perfect for sunny selfies, checking emails or calling friends and family. Travellers from June will be charged no more than they would be at home in the UK whilst travelling within the EU. However exceeding agreed minutes, texts and data would see customers face additional charges. For many this will end roaming charges when abroad in Europe and reduce phone bills for tourists. But those with unlimited plans could find their allowances capped by their provider and incur costs for going over the cap. For example EE customers with unlimited data or an allowance of over 15GB will only be able to use 15GB within the EU and would incur charged for

any further usage. Whilst holiday makers will benefit under the new roaming charges, there are other ways you can help protect against additional charges and exceeding data allowance. Apps which enable you to monitor your data usage and allowances are readily available on App stores. Downloading one of these free apps will help keep track of how much data you use and will notify you when you’re close to reaching the end of your monthly allowance. Free public Wi-Fi is becoming more common. Connecting to Wi-Fi as much as possible will cut data usage and help ensure no extra costs are incurred. Checking you are on the right plan for you can be helpful when buying a phone or signing up to a contract or SIM only plan. By monitoring your usage you can see how much data, calls and texts you are likely to use to avoid paying too much or incurring unwanted charges.

Top Tips 1. Check phone bills carefully and query any unrecognised charges. 2. Use free messaging apps for sending messages or making calls that use data or WIFI i.e. IMessage, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp instead of traditional SMS messages. 3. Monitor data usage by downloading apps such as Data Usage, 3G Watchdog, My Data Manager so you never exceed your data allowance. 4. Free Wi-Fi is becoming increasingly common in public places. Switch off data roaming and use Wi-Fi for messaging, apps and web browsing abroad and at home as much as possible. 5. Make sure you choose the right phone, contract and SIM plan for you. twitter.com/mon_housing

47


NEW HOMES

MHA will shortly be offering a range of brand new, affordable homes to buy and rent at the new King’s Wood Gate development in the historic town of Monmouth. Located on the Wonastow Road, King’s Wood Gate offers the perfect mix of scenic countryside living with all the benefits of a thriving town nearby. MHA will be offering a range of high quality 1 bedroom apartments and 2, 3 and 4 bedroom family homes to buy and rent. If you are interested in buying an affordable home at King’s Wood Gate, MHA’s Homebuy low cost home ownership scheme can provide an equity loan to fund part of the property purchase price to someone buying a home through MHA. If you are interested in buying an affordable home at King’s Wood Gate, please contact Sarah Harrison on 0333 207 9000 or email info@capsel.co.uk To apply for a home to rent is easy. Simply visit www.monmouthshirehomesearch. co.uk, click on ‘how to register’ and then ‘start a new application’ to complete an online application form.

www.mhahomes.co.uk/kingswoodgate

48 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk


Moving to Universal Credit? We Can Help - 0345 677 2277

Download the Monmouthshire Homesearch app today! • Check for available properties with ease • Bid at the touch of a button • Request feedback on bids you have made • Easily update your contact details • Download from the IOS or Android store

twitter.com/mon_housing

49


NEW HOMES

Check Out What's

New (Homes) On Our Website By Julie Nicholas - New Homes Manager

In 2016 MHA set up the ‘New Homes’ team. The team has spent time listening to tenants, staff and partners to create a new page on our website called ‘I am a new tenant’. The page features a huge number of brand new and/or revised films, factsheets and faces.

So... What Have We Got? Animations: Two new films present the MHA application and starter tenancy process in a fun 3D format. Follow Cerys and Evan through their first year of living in their MHA homes. Voiced by two local young people who are aspiring actors, we hope you enjoy these fact-filled movies. Tenant Handbook: We had so much feedback from staff, tenants and partners about what information you wanted at the beginning of your tenancy that our ‘Quick-Start Guide’ is now a full-size Tenant handbook. We hope it has everything you need to see you through your tenancy… from ASB to Ziggies! Factsheets: We have pulled together a range of new factsheets including a frequently asked questions sheet (giving techie tips) and a starter information sheet explaining your tenancy rights and responsibilities.

50 www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

Booklets: Our moving-in and moving-on booklets have been completely revised and tell you everything you need to know about starting and ending an MHA tenancy. They tell you who to contact, what to do and how to begin and end your tenancy correctly. We hope that the new webpage will be of use to everyone, not just our starter tenants, so please check it out under the MHA ‘Homes’ tab on the website here: www.monmouthshirehousing. co.uk/i-am-a-new-startertenant And a big thank you to everyone who helped to advise, write and produce all of these films and documents- we are really pleased with the result and we think you will be too.


Moving to Universal Credit? We Can Help - 0345 677 2277

Help us to keep your details up to date It’s important that we keep the information we hold about you up to date, so please tell us about any changes to your household circumstances. This could include:

Why we want to know

Your information is safe

We hold details about you and your household so that we can make good decisions to provide our tenants with the highest quality service.

• Your contact number or email address • The people you live with – for example, if someone moves out or a new person moves in, if you are expecting or have had a baby • You or your partner’s circumstances - for example, your name, job, and the benefits you get • Your household income

The changes may mean that you are entitled to certain benefits. We can advise you what you may be eligible for and help you apply, if you need our help.

We are committed to protecting your privacy and do all that we can to protect your personal information. Any information collected will be held securely and in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. Simply use the form below to provide details of changes to your household. If you have access to the internet you can update your details on our website (search “update details”) or contact us on 0345 377 2277.

Name: Address: Telephone: E-mail: My changes:

I would like MHA to contact me about my changes

Yes

No

Please return to: Corporate Services, Monmouthshire Housing Association, Nant Y Pia House, Mamhilad Technology Park, Mamhilad, Monmouthshire, NP4 0JJ twitter.com/mon_housing

51


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Money Matters - Summer 2017  
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