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MONEY

H£LP

ADVICE

JOBS

SUPPORT

NEW

SKILLS

New Year • New Start • Enjoy our Annual Edition 2013

Struggling with paying bills? Money Wise are here to help Stuck in the same job or need to find one? Contact our Work & Skills Wise Advisor

Not sure what an E-mail is? Or how to get online? We are launching our Web Wise service that can help: Find out more inside


1.0 WELCOME 1.0 WELCOME 3

1.1

The Inclusion Team

Farida’s Welcome

2.0 BENEFIT CHANGES 4

2.1

Bedroom Tax

8

2.2

Benefit Cap

9

2.3

DLA change and PIP Introduction

10

2.4

Incapacity Benefit Changes

12

2.5

Claimant Commitment

3.0 MONEY WISE UPDATE 13

3.1

Matt & Sarah’s Update

15

3.2

Outcome Statistics

16

3.3

Door Stop Lenders

17

3.4

Affordable Insurance

18

3.5

Swalec

19

3.6

Collective Switching

20

3.7

Living within my Budget Sessions

20

3.8

Credit Union

4.0 WORK & SKILLS WISE UPDATE 21

4.1

Claire’s Introduction

22

4.2

Cath’s Introduction

23

4.3

Outcome Stats

24

4.4

Way into Work Project

25

4.5

Cath’s Case Study

26

4.6

Job Seeking Skills Programme

5.0 WEB WISE PROJECT 27

5.1

Paul’s Introduction

28

5.2

Computer Scheme

29

5.3

Facebook Page

30

5.4

Digital Drop Ins

31

5.5

Twitter

32

5.7

Money Advice Service

CIPR Awards 2013


1.1 WELCOME Hello and welcome to this annual edition of Money Matters! There has been a huge amount of activity this year which we are really excited to tell you about. So much has been achieved over the last 12 months, for example our Money Wise service has helped 440 tenants this year and the team has helped to claim over £245,167.80 in benefits for our tenants. The Moneywise team have helped tenants save over £39,241 in debt, and helped save over £6,858 with energy switching and over £22,000 with water bills; turn to page 15 for more information. Equally our Work and Skills Wise service has helped to enrol 75 people on training courses, helped 55 people find volunteering placements and helped 13 adult tenants find employment and 24 young people aged 16 – 24 find employment. Offering services such as Money Wise and Work and Skills Wise are important to us, we seek your feedback to ensure that we are delivering and offering what our tenants need. We have included a very short questionnaire for you to complete providing us your feedback to see how we can strengthen our services. I hope you are able to spend some time filling in the questionnaire, it only takes about 5 minutes and there is a prize of £100 to be won, paid into a credit union account for the winner. Don’t miss out! What we are excited to share with you is that the Money Matters newsletter recently won the CIPR Cymru Pride Awards annual silver award for the Best External Publication 2013; See us accepting our award on the previous page.

Whilst we have had quite a positive and productive year there have also been a number of changes which the government have been making that haven’t been as positive and have caused much anger and debate. I’m talking about the benefits changes. This year a number of you have had to deal with and face a number of changes. For some of you this has meant a cut in the benefits that are paid to you, for others it has meant that in time you will see some further changes. Throughout this year we have tried to communicate the changes via the “Your Benefits are Changing” information that we have been sending out to you. There is still a state of confusion at the moment, so what we have tried to do in this edition is to provide you as much information as possible about the changes and where to get further information or who to speak with. I do hope that this will either put your mind at rest or that you will be able to get the advice and support that you need by contacting the relevant people referred to in the various articles. Finally we have a number of goodbyes and a couple of new faces to welcome including an introduction of a new project “Web Wise”. This project is all about providing MHA tenants with the help to get online (turn to page 27) and find out how you can save money, send emails, find jobs and much much more! Get in touch with our Digital Inclusion Advisor Paul, and see if you qualify for a free laptop.

P.S Remember to complete your feedback and the competition included with this newsletter. There is £100 up for grabs!

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2.0 BENEFIT CHANGES

The Government Benefit changes & MHA reponses As you will know the government are making a number of changes to the benefit system, they are hoping that the changes will make the benefits system simpler to understand. These changes are likely to have an impact on those currently receiving benefits. If you are receiving any benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) you should read this article carefully and contact the Money Wise or Work and Skills Wise team and other departments in MHA for help and support. To understand the benefits changes, in this article we have listed 5 main changes that the government are proposing, including some changes that have already been made, also we have listed our responses to these changes and how MHA may be able to help you – if you receive any benefits you may be affected. These are the 5 main changes we will cover:

A: Bedroom Tax

B: Benefit Cap

C: Changes to DLA and introduction of PIP

D: Incapacity Benefit Changes

E: The Claimant Commitment

A: The Under Occupation Penalty or Bedroom Tax: Changes to Housing Benefit What is the government proposed change? The UK Government is reducing the amount of Housing Benefit some people can claim. If you are living in accommodation that is considered too big for your needs, you will be classed as “under-occupying”. If you claim and receive Housing Benefit and you are of working age (18-62), then the housing benefit you receive may be reduced. If you have one bedroom more that you need then your housing benefit will be reduced by 14% and if you are under-occupying by two or more bedrooms then it will be reduced by 25%. This means you will have to pay some money towards your rent. It could also mean that if you can’t afford to pay for the shortfall you may need to move to a smaller property. 4


2.1 BENEFIT CHANGES So what are MHA’s Reponses to the Bedroom Tax? We understand that it is difficult for some families to make up the shortfall and pay for the reduction in benefit that they now receive. To help our tenants through these government changes we are able to offer the following schemes: 1. A mutual exchange scheme through Home Swapper or House Swap Wales. 2. Smart Move scheme of up to £1,500 towards help to move to a smaller property. 3. A Lodger scheme 4. A dedicated staff member to work with people affected by the bedroom tax

1. Our Response: Mutual Exchange and House Swapper If you are currently an ‘Assured Tenant’ and are affected by the bedroom tax, you may be able to swap your home with another council or housing association tenant - this is called a mutual exchange. You can register for a mutual exchange in two ways: • Via the national Home Swapper scheme (www.homeswapper.co.uk) • Via the local Facebook link to the House Swap Wales scheme (www.facebook.com/ HouseSwapWales)

A few things to remember before applying for an exchange are: • You cannot swap homes until all parties in the exchange have received written permission from MHA or their respective landlord. • If you are a ‘Starter Tenant’, you do not have the right to exchange and will have to wait until you are granted an Assured Tenancy (usually after 12 months). The House Swap Wales scheme has just launched to help tenants easily mutually exchange their property (if they wish to). This scheme has already identified that tenants from across the country are already looking for exchanges on Facebook, and aims to make the exchange process for them, and any other interested tenant, a whole lot easier by making sure that all tenants have access to their landlord’s web links, rules, information and advice about exchanging. If you would like to find out more details about mutual exchanges please contact the Homesearch Team on 0845 900 2956.

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2.1 BENEFIT CHANGES 2. Our Response: Smart Move – the incentive to downsize to a new home MHA’s Smart Move downsizing incentive scheme offers a financial contribution of up to £1,500 to help you move into a smaller property that you fully occupy. £1,500 will be offered (less any rent arrears, recharges or court costs) to any MHA tenants who downsize (via transfer) to a property that they fully occupy between 2nd December 2013 and the 31 March 2014. This offer is available for a limited time only. From April 2014, £1000 will be available for tenants who wish to take up the scheme. Funds are limited and allocated on a first come first served basis. If you would like to take advantage of this scheme, call Lucy Rogers on 01495 767177

3. Our Response: The Lodger Scheme Under the new bedroom tax rules, if you under-occupy your home by one bedroom and the lodger you rent your spare room to uses your home as their only home, your home will be assessed as being fully occupied, so the amount of Housing Benefit you receive will not be reduced by the bedroom tax. If you are an assured tenant with MHA, then you have the right to take in a lodger A lodger is a person who rents a room in someone else’s home. Usually, there is a formal arrangement in place that identifies the rooms that the lodger can use solely for themselves and those that they share with the rest of the household (e.g. the kitchen, living room and bathroom) for an agreed payment. You will need to ensure you obtain written permission from MHA prior to taking in a lodger. MHA can provide you with a free Lodger Pack giving you more detailed information about taking in a lodger, including: • Lodger Guide • Application for consent • Lodger Agreement • Inventory • Example notice to quit To obtain a ‘Lodger Pack’ contact Lucy Rogers, your Welfare Reform Project Officer on 01495 767177 or email lucy.rogers@monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

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2.1 BENEFIT CHANGES 4. Our Response: Our Dedicated Welfare Reform Support Hi, I’m Maria! I am employed by MHA to work with tenants of working age affected by Welfare Reform and bedroom tax issues. I work closely with Moneywise, Work & Skills Wise, Neighbourhood Officers, Gateway Housing Support, Housing Benefit Department etc... I arrange a visit and complete a personal action plan with tenants to ensure that I have covered essential issues. To assess their needs I include: • Assisting tenants to complete housing benefit review and DHP (Discretionary Housing Payment) forms • Budget sheets • Welsh Water Assist forms (where appropriate) I make referrals to Moneywise as appropriate especially if tenants need further assistance with budgeting or debt advice. I discuss with tenants options of downsizing to smaller properties and check if assistance is needed from the Lettings Team. I make referrals to Work & Skills Wise to help tenants access employment, training or further education or increase their hours of work. I advise on the Lodger Scheme, Gateway Credit Union and other organisations such as CAB (Citizens Advice Bureau), CAP (Christian Action Against Poverty), Age Cymru – and explain the pitfalls of Debt Agencies. An important part of my work is to monitor tenants’ rent accounts, as well as assess and agree with tenants if a tenancy support referral is required. I refer vulnerable tenants to the Gateway Housing Support Service or direct to MIND, a charity who has expertise with people suffering from mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. If you are affected by the reforms and your arrears are going up, give me a call and we can see how I can help.

My contact details are: Direct Dial: 01495 761153 Mobile: 07775 704840

Maria Beecham Neighbourhood Officer

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2.2 BENEFIT CHANGES

B: Benefit Cap What is the government proposed change? In April 2013 the Government introduced the Benefit Cap. The aim of the cap was to limit the total amount of benefits that working-age people can receive, even if their full entitlement would otherwise be higher. The cap is set as: • For a single adult with no children £350 per week • For a couple or lone parent, regardless of the number of children they have £500 per week The Benefit Cap will also apply to both lone-parents and families meaning they will only be able to receive £26,000 annually, single people will only be able to receive £18,500 annually. There are however some exceptions, for individuals on the following benefits: • Working Tax Credit • Disability Living Allowance • Employment Support Allowance • War Window/ Widowers Pension If you are affected by the cap, you should have received a letter from the DWP advising you that your benefit payment will be capped to a certain level. Benefit Cap and our response to this: 1. Money Wise service 2. www.MonMoney.net

1. Our Response: Money Wise MHA, like many other Housing Associations and public bodies have been very aware of the fact that the government is looking to make these huge changes to the benefits system. In response MHA has over the last year developed and strengthened its Money Wise service to help support tenants through the changes. Our Money Wise team has 2 full time trained advisers to offer advice in: • Welfare benefit • Debt • Energy • Budgeting matters This advice is free, impartial and confidential. Our advisers can meet with you in your own home, consider what your financial situation is, provide you with advice and help you apply for benefits. If you are struggling financially they can offer debt advice, but also refer you to a free specialist debt advice service offered to MHA tenants. 8


2.3 BENEFIT CHANGES The advisors will also look at your energy cost to see if you can reduce your energy bills or whether they can switch you to a lower tariff. Work can also be done to help you switch to cheaper insurance providers and also advice is provided on affordable loans. The advisors are also able to offer you “managing within my budget” budgeting sessions, either in a one to one or group setting. This work will allow you to see how much income you have coming in, where you spend it and where you can make savings. Contact the Money Wise team if you are affected by the Benefit Cap and need support.

2. Our Response: MonMoney.Net MHA has helped to put together a local website called MonMoney.net. If you want advice of where else you can go for advice locally please take a look at the Mon Money website www.MonMoney.net.

C: DLA Change & PIP Introduction: Changes to disability related benefits, DLA and the Introduction of PIP

What is the government proposed change? Disability Living Allowance changes (DLA). From April 2013 working age claimants will no longer be able to make a claim for DLA. All working age claimants will need to make an application for Personal Independence Payments (PIP). If you are over 65 then you will be signposted to apply for Attendance Allowance If you are under 16 then you will still be eligible to claim for DLA until you turn 16, after which a claim for PIP needs to be made. Introduction of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) PIP will be the new benefit for people who have disability related conditions. DLA for working aged claimants will be phased out. There are no plans currently for it to be made applicable for under 16’s or over 65’s. PIP has newly designed disability tests. The PIP award will consist of two daily living component standards and two mobility rate standards.

Our response to DLA change and introduction of PIP 1. Generic trained MHA staff 2. Money Wise specialist trained staff

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2.4 BENEFIT CHANGES 1. Our Response: Generic trained MHA staff All MHA front line staff have undergone training and understand the changes that are being introduced. Front line staff will be able to provide you basic information of the DLA/PIP benefit changes and can sign post you to specialist support.

2. Our Response: Money Wise specialist trained staff Our Income and Energy Advisors have undergone specialist training and can help you apply for the benefits as well as try to support you through the appeals process. If you are in the process of reapplying please contact the Money Wise team who can support you through this process.

D: Incapacity Benefit Changes What is the government proposed change? All claimants of the following benefits: • Incapacity Benefit • Severe Disablement Allowance • Income Support paid on the grounds of illness or disability Will be reassessed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) by March 2014 to see if they are fit for work or whether they should be moved onto a different benefit. Job Centre Plus will make contact with tenants about reassessment. A questionnaire will be sent out for claimants to complete; once the form is complete an interview with a medical professional will take place. A decision is then made on whether the claimant is now entitled to receive ESA or whether they will be moved on to another benefit – which may require you to look for employment. It is expected that all transfers will be completed by April 2014.

Our response to the Incapacity Benefit changes: 1. Work and Skills Wise Service 2. Money Wise Service 3. Web Wise Service

1. Our Response: Work and Skills Wise The governments push to getting people into employment and move them off incapacity benefit has meant that we are witnessing a number of tenants who are now considered fit for work but have not worked for several years. The skills that these people once had are no longer needed and new forms of employment mean that a completely new set of skills are required by today’s work force. 10


2.4 BENEFIT CHANGES To this end MHA’s Work and Skills Wise service has been developed for MHA tenants to seek help and support to move them closer towards securing their next job. Working on a one to one basis our Work and Skills Wise team take a personalised approach to helping tenants gain the skills that they need to get their next job. The team will develop a personalised action plan, covering what the tenants want and how they are going to achieve it. The team works with a number of agencies such as Colleges, Adult Education Departments, Careers Wales and a whole lot more. Support is available to help with basic reading, writing and maths, volunteering, work experience placements, job searching, interview techniques and CV writing. Turn to page 26 to find out how to access the service.

2. Our Response: Money Wise Service If you haven’t already been re-assessed and have recently received an assessment form from the Job Centre, on receipt of your letter please contact the Money Wise team. The Team can support you with the completion of this form. The incorrect completion of this form could mean that you are put on a different benefit and you could lose out. Turn to page 13 to find out how the team can assist.

3. Our Response: Web Wise Service To apply or re-apply for incapacity benefit or any other benefits, the government has adopted a “Digital by Default” approach which means that all claims will now have to be made online; furthermore, all services offered in the future will first be offered via digital means. This means is that if you can’t use the internet or don’t have an email address or access to a computer it will be difficult for you to correspond with a government agency. To help you prepare for this the MHA Web Wise service can help you in a number of ways to get online. The Work Web Wise (W.W.W) sessions offer you an insight on how you can use the World Wide Web to find your next job. The Digi-Wise sessions helps you get to grips with the range of different technologies that are available and how to make yourself Web Wise and included in this digital world.

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2.5 BENEFIT CHANGES

E: Claimant Commitment What is the government proposed change? The “Claimant Commitment” started in October 2013 and will be rolled out to 100 Job Centres per month. The Claimant Commitment is a document that all claimants of job related benefits are asked to sign and commit to. The Claimant Commitment includes the actions that a claimant will take to find employment. The claimant will be monitored based on the commitments they have made. Claimants could be asked to look for a job or demonstrate that they have spent up to 35 hours per week looking for a job. There will be no extra money paid towards travel costs to and from the job centre for this. Claimants who don’t co-operate will see their benefits reduced or stopped which will lead to interruptions in their Housing Benefit. These reduction or cuts in benefits are called sanctions.

Our response to Claimant Commitment 1. Work and Skills Wise 2. Web Wise Service

1. Our Response: Work and Skills Wise The Work and Skills Wise service as mentioned previously can help tenants demonstrate that they have actively been looking for work. Contact the Work and Skills Wise team to see how they can help. Remember, if you fail to show you have been looking for employment, your benefits will be cut.

2. Our Response: Web Wise Service The Web Wise service helps tenants to use the Universal Job Match site to help apply for jobs. Using the Job Match site tenants will be able to demonstrate and provide evidence of job searches. The service can also help you set up job alerts and help you use social media to find jobs. Remember, you may already be on a reduced income; being hit by the sanctions could mean you could lose more of your benefits. Make sure you don’t see your income drop even further by being hit by the sanctions. Support is available from the services on offer, please take advantage of them!

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3.1 MONEY WISE UPDATES Sarah’s Update Hi all, This year has been very busy, and it looks like it will get even busier next year with helping tenants who are affected by the bedroom tax and reapplying for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs). A DHP is a payment that you can apply for when you are struggling with your rental payments. A number of our tenants have been successful in getting these in place. The problem is they are up for renewal and you may not receive these again, but I’m working on a one to one basis with families to advise how we can take action to either get another DHP in place or look at alternative options. Universal Credit is another huge benefit change that we are expecting and I imagine that is going to keep me really busy too. Just to give you a bit of explanation, anyone receiving benefits will eventually receive one benefit called “Universal Credit”; this will include your housing cost too. For now, the best advice I guess is for me to say remember that Universal Credit will be coming in and give me a call if you need advice on what it may mean for your personal circumstances because everyone’s circumstances are different. Remember, I can offer one to one benefit checks and budgeting sessions to help you prepare for these changes. This is a completely confidential service.

may be entitled to Welsh Water Assist (a scheme where you can get a reduction in the amount of water rates you have to pay). I also felt that she may qualify for a higher level of her DLA (DLA is a benefit for people who have a disability – this is now changing to a new benefit called PIP). We completed the forms together and now Mrs X is much better off as her income has increased quite significantly, she has also had money back on her water rates via the Welsh Water Assist scheme and a large back payment for her DLA. Because Mrs X had an increase in DLA, a member of her family can also claim Carer’s Allowance (CA) is a payment paid to those that have caring responsibilities for a person that is on a higher rate of DLA). If you would like to see if I could help you, or just for a general benefit check to see if you are claiming all that you are entitled to, please give me a call on 07725 824800 or 01495 767181

I look forward to hearing from you!

Here is a typical example of how I have already helped many families with the changes; I visited Mrs X, completed a benefit check and found out that Mrs X

My contact details are: Direct Dial: 01495 767181 Mobile: 07725824800 13


3.1 MONEY WISE UPDATES Matt’s Update Hi all, 2013 has been very busy to say the least! Working in the south of the county is where I have witnessed a number of people affected by the government “Bedroom Tax” or “under-occupation”. This means anyone who is living in a property which is considered too large for their needs would receive a benefits reduction. For example if you are a family of 4 and are only required under the Bedroom Tax rules to have a 3 bedroom house, you will receive a reduced amount of housing benefit. If you have one extra bedroom your benefit will be reduced by 14% and for 2 extra bedrooms your benefits will be reduced by 25%. This equals to about anything between £11 to £20 a week. A number of tenants affected by this are finding it hard to make end meets So I’ve been working with them to reduce energy bill costs and shopping costs as well as providing budgeting advice which is key to really start understanding where your money is going. Another benefit change that is affecting tenants is the change from incapacity benefit to ESA. Some of the clients that I see have to look for work as they are now considered fit to work. Our Work and Skills Wise project has been helping tenants with this. For example one of my clients affected by bedroom tax was able to take in a lodger to help him make up for the benefit cut. As the tenant now has to look for work, the Work and Skills Wise team is working with him to help him to get a job. Our Digital Inclusion Advisor was also able to help in finding an affordable internet connection and access to a laptop so the client could do job searches, fill out application forms online and apply for jobs from his home rather than booking himself in the library all the time.

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In another case, a couple were referred to the Money Wise service after having a visit from one of our Neighborhood Officers due to the changes with bedroom tax. I met with them in the comfort of their own home and discussed how the bedroom tax will affect them and the amount of rent they would need to pay as of April 2013. After having a discussion with the tenants, I soon realised that one of the family members had a rare medical condition which meant he needed his own room; therefore there was no spare bedroom as such at the property as all rooms were being used. Due to finding this out I applied for Discretionary Housing Payment (referred to in Sarah’s update) and was successful. This meant they did not have to make up the short fall in rent for having the extra bedroom. Like Sarah, I also applied for Disability Living Allowance for this tenant which added an extra £600 to his annual income. The Welsh Water Assist fund also awarded a total sum of £250, reducing his water rates by nearly half. These are just a couple of examples of how I can help you and there are many more case studies like the ones above that have had positive outcomes. To see how I can help you get in touch for free, friendly advice and assistance about all your financial needs. Don’t bury your head in the sand, give me a call and book an appointment.

Give me a call on 07792 596915 or 01495 767182 – I’m here to help.


REPORTING OUR OUTCOMES HOW THE MONEY WISE SERVICE HAS HELPED YOU 2013 The MHA Money Wise service delivers money, money, help andand advice to MHAto MHA The MHA Moneywise service delivers help advice tenants. Heresome are some ways we we have helped you over lastthe year. tenants. Here are of the ways have helped youthe over last year.

Tenants have been helped over the course of the year

27

239

Welfare benefits checks have been conducted

Tenants were helped to get insurance policies put in place

11

Tenants were helped to open bank accounts

24

76

6

124

200

37

9

£245,167.80

£6,858.34

£2560.00

£8807.00

£22,000

£39,241

Tenants were helped with budgeting advice and support

Free energy saving DVDs were provided, offering energy saving advi ce and support

was gained per annum for MHA tenants in welfare benefit entitlement

was secured in grants for 11 tenants

Water meters were installed saving £837

Refferals were made for specialist debt advice and support

was saved as a result of 47 tenants switching their energy providers

was saved after 92 tenants submitted application forms to ‘Welsh Water Assist’

Free energy gadgets were provided to tenants

Holistic energy advice checks have been provided

Tenants were helped with opening credit union accounts

was gained in loans to help 6 tenants

was saved as a direct result of debt advice that was provided across 10 basic debt advice cases 15


3.3 MONEY WISE UPDATES Wales Illegal Money Lending Unit The Wales Illegal Money Lending Unit (WIMLU) was launched in February 2008 by Cardiff Trading Standards in partnership with the Wales Heads of Trading Standards. WIMLU deals with the problem of illegal money lending in Wales. Many illegal lenders (loan sharks) have used fear and intimidation to carry out their business. Historically they have targeted the most vulnerable members of society, those on low or no income and single parent families. However there is no longer a typical loan shark victim, it is just as likely to be an individual who is employed and who appears to be in control of their finances.

Loan Shark Victims If you are a loan shark victim, or think there may be a loan shark operating in your area, contact the Wales Illegal Money Lending Unit on the 24 hour Hotline: If you have information about a loan shark, contact us in confidence by: • Calling 0300 123 3311 • Sending us an e-mail: imlu@cardiff.gov.uk • Text ‘loan shark’ to 60003 Specialist Officers are on hand to support and assist victims and advise on debt and other problems. It is important to know that borrowing from an unlicensed lender is not an offence. The offence will have been committed by the lender. WIMLU will not take action against any individual who has borrowed money but will try to help to get you back on the right track.

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Remember, loan sharks usually charge very high rates of interest which can run into thousands of percent. We hope that Wales will continue to join together to Beat the Loan Sharks and bite back! Avoid the door step lending!!! It is tempting to lend from door stop lender when money is tight. Remember you could end up paying over 10 times more in interest.


3.4 MONEY WISE UPDATES Do you have Home Contents Insurance? As a Landlord we insure the structure of your home or building. However, we do not insure the contents of your home, jewellery, laptops and other personal belongings, they are your responsibility. Are your possessions covered? MHA tenants and residents can arrange for insurance cover for the contents of their home at a special affordable rate. Premiums can be paid fortnightly or monthly in cash or monthly by direct debit or annually. The cover has been designed to help tenants and residents insure most of their belongings as easily as possible covering them against theft, vandalism and fire. The minimum value of possessions that can be insured are £9,000 if aged under 55, or £6,000 if aged 55 or over. Premiums start from £1.43 a fortnight (for a £9,000 sum insured) or £1.09 a fortnight for a £6,000 sum insured. Please note a £4,000 minimum sum insured is now available for residents of sheltered accommodation from just 87p a fortnight. Please note premiums vary depending upon the sum insured and postcode. Tenants and residents can also increase cover for an additional premium to include extended accidental damage cover, cover for wheelchairs/mobility scooters and hearing aids, as well as personal possessions outside their home. So if you have no home contents insurance cover call Matt or Sarah on 01495 767181 /767182.

Get insured the weather is on the change! With the especially cold winters over the last couple of years our tenants are being urged now to take preventative measures to avoid burst pipes this coming winter and make sure if the worst happens they have adequate insurance. In recent years Christmas and New Year has seen insurers receiving up to 50% more claims than expected for the time of year as a result of the freezing weather. More of these claims are for damage caused by escape of water than for fire or theft. Claims for burst pipes cost insurers £800 million yet tenants may still underestimate the risk. 57% worry about burglaries while they are away at Christmas but only 8% were concerned about burst pipes. Research by one insurer shows the average burst pipe claim they paid in winter 2009 was about £15,000. Most insurance policies will cover damage caused by freezing water and leaking water from tanks, pipes and heating systems. A burst pipe is a massive inconvenience for any tenant especially over the Winter period and even worse if they have no insurance. Give Matt and Sarah a call on (01495) 767181 / 767182.

Please note Matt and Sarah can also do a price comparison against other providers to ensure you have the best deal, why not give them a call?

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3.5 MONEY WISE UPDATES Swalec We are Russell Thomas and Neil Smith and our job is to help you be more energy efficient by offering home visits at a time and date to suit your lifestyle. We provide a tailored smart plan including an energy efficiency review with money saving hints and tips specific to your home and how you use the energy and appliances within it. We work for Swalec but our service is free to all. We can help you understand your energy bills, heating controls and contact your energy supplier on your behalf to resolve issues you may have around your gas and electricity usage. We do not discuss Swalec tariffs and are not a sales force, we are a community based department here to help anyone and everyone. Another key focus of our role is making sure people are claiming grants that they may not be aware of like Warm Home Discount. This is ÂŁ135 which is paid by energy companies towards your electricity account for this year. If you are in receipt

Russell Thomas & Neil Smith Swalec Team 18

of means tested benefits like Pensions Credits, Job Seekers Allowance or if your children receive free schools meals, you may be eligible for this payment. We can help you complete the paperwork via online forms or over the phone no matter who your supplier is. We are also able to help complete forms for Welsh Water Assist (which reduces water rates) as well as helping people manage energy account debt. Russell Thomas - I cover Usk, Raglan, Abergavenny and Monmouth. I have been working as a Smart Service Advisor since May 2012. My contact number is 07584 313655 Neil Smith - My area is Tintern, Chepstow, Magor and Caldicot. Between Russell and I we cover every postcode in Monmouthshire and our time covers the whole of South Wales. I began working for Swalec in May 2012. My contact number is 07584 313663.


3.6 MONEY WISE UPDATES Collective Switching Cyd-Cymru – Wales Together Collective Switching You may not have heard about collective switching before, but the concept is really simple. By coming together as one to buy our energy, we can negotiate better deals with energy providers, making bigger savings which are passed onto you. Cyd Cymru is a wales-wide collective switching scheme. Wherever you live in Wales if you sign up and switch your energy supplier, you could be feeling the benefits. The more people that sign up the better discounts we can negotiate.

How does it work? There is no cost to switch and no obligation to switch suppliers. You will have final say on whether you want to switch or not. The process is quite simple. 1) Registration: Register your interest. You can do this online at www.cydcymru-energy.com or by calling 08000 935902. 2) Energy Auction: An energy auction will then take place where Energy Suppliers are asked to give their best price to those who have registered to be part of the collective. 3) New Rate Offered: You will be contacted with a personalised offer calculated for you based on the information you have provided. 4) Decide to switch: If you accept the offer you will be assisted to switch to the new cheaper tariff If you are interested and would like some assistance give your Income and Energy Advisor a call.

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3.7 MONEY WISE UPDATES Living within my Budget A number of you have been in contact to say that you are finding it difficult to manage your budget due to the benefit changes. MHA are offering you the chance to take part in the ‘Living within my budget sessions’. These sessions are all about managing money and are offered to all tenants and residents of Monmouthshire. The aim of these sessions is to provide tenants with an understanding of how to manage their finances by using a budget sheet. These sessions will show you how to use a budget sheet. This will allow you to understand how to budget, what a priority debt is and what a non-priority debt is. These sessions will last for 3 hours with tea, coffee, childcare and travel costs provided. We can offer further sessions on how to count the costs of running your home and how to reduce your fuel bills.

For more information or to book your place please contact Matthew Taylor on 07792 596915 or Paul Collins on 07896 868560. Credit Union Did you find Christmas a stretch last year? Everyone wants a perfect family Christmas, but sometimes it can end up with stress and worry about money. Advice agencies report January as one of the worst times for debt and family crises. For next Christmas, why not set up a savings account with your local Credit Union? Gateway’s Christmas Saver Account is a safe, easy way to save, direct from your pay or benefits, or from your bank account, or in cash. The money is locked in until November when you can spend it as you choose. It’s a safer way to save than a thrift club and more flexible than voucher schemes. Parents who have used Christmas savings accounts tell us that their Christmas is much more enjoyable now that they are spending money they know they can afford, with lots of families saving from their Child Benefit. Gateway now has offices in Chepstow and Abergavenny and opens a few hours a week in Caldicot and Monmouth One Stop shops and Wyesham Play Project. MHA has helped Gateway to open their new branch office in Bulwark, next to Kibby’s chip shop, and will be running advice surgeries there in the New Year. The Abergavenny office is in Cross St, shared with the Citizens Advice Bureau. If you are looking to borrow, before or after Christmas, Gateway offers a low cost alternative to using doorstep lenders and payday loans. As a savings co-op, they are careful only to lend what you can afford to repay, and look at every application on an individual basis. Gateway now lends up to £7,500 and has lots of MHA staff as members as well as tenants. Gateway is mostly run by volunteers, and with a number of volunteers moving into work recently, they’re always looking for more help.

To find out more, call 01495 742500 or go to www.gatewaycu.co.uk


4.1 WORK & SKILLS WISE UPDATES Work & Skills Wise Update Hi, I’m Claire your new Work and Skills Wise Officer. I am part of a team of two and work alongside Cath the Work and Skills Wise Support Officer to help tenants that want to find employment and develop their skills. I have been working for MHA for nine months and am really enjoying my role. I get a great deal of satisfaction when tenants complete courses and build up enough confidence to take control of their learning and job searching.

Finding out about training courses is key to helping tenants and showing them the type of learning opportunities that are available. I work in close partnership with local colleges and adult education departments and can often find courses at little or no cost.

My contact number is 01495 767194 if you are interested in finding out more, call me - I look forward to hearing from you.

A key part of my role is to work with tenants either on an individual or group basis to identify what skills they have and to develop their training and education, or skills in order to be able to apply for jobs. Currently, I am running a Job Seeking Skills programme for MHA tenants which is based in Abergavenny ACE centre. This programme aims to help and advise tenants on how to apply for work, guiding them through the process of where to look for jobs, the importance of having a CV, how to prepare for interview and how to get that dream job! I also help and advise tenants on setting up their own businesses and work closely with the Centre for Business. If you have a business idea get in contact and lets see what we can do for you. Part of my role is to seek learning and volunteer opportunities in and around Monmouthshire. If you want to volunteer with MHA or in any other organisations across Monmouthshire, I may be able to help you find a placement. Volunteering is vitally important when you need to gain new skills. We have a number of tenants volunteering with MHA and a range of other organisation, so if you’re interested why not ring me a for a chat?

Claire Howells Work & Skills Wise Officer Volunteering MHA’s Voluntary Work Experience placements As part of the Work and Skills Wise program, MHA can offer you a range of voluntary work experience placements, both within MHA and elsewhere. MHA’s volunteering programme will help equip you with an understanding of the demands and challenges of the work place. To take advantage of this scheme and find out more information please ring Claire on 01495 767194 for an information pack. 21


4.2 WORK & SKILLS WISE UPDATES Work & Skills Wise Support Officer Hello, I am Cath the Work & Skills Wise Support Officer for MHA. My role is to help support tenants with their job searches and educational development. I can help you to develop your CV and apply for jobs. At MHA we strongly believe in opening the doors to tenants to volunteer and gain experience in the variety of areas that we work in. If this is something that you are interested in doing, then I can help. Additionally, if you would like some guidance on possible educational routes, please feel free to give me a call. I am also heavily involved in delivering phase two of the ‘Way into Work’ project. This is an employability course that MHA run alongside Monmouthshire Youth Service. The programme is for 18-24 year

olds seeking employment. We focus on making the process of entering the job market less intimidating by providing a real understanding of what employers are looking for and how to stand out against other candidates. I strongly believe that the two weeks relevant work experience placements are what make this project the success it has been, giving the young people the confidence and experience in their chosen field of employment. Witnessing the increase in self-confidence as well as the progression of these young people is of great satisfaction, with continuing support being offered once the six week programme is complete. If you want any more information about any of these projects, then please get in contact with me.

You can contact me on 01495 767193 or alternatively email me at catherine.murray@ monmouthshirehousing.co.uk

Cath Murray Work & Skills Wise Support Officer 22


REPORTING OUR OUTCOMES HOW THE WORK & SKILLS WISE SERVICE HAS HELPED YOU 2012/13 The MHA’s Work & Skills Wise service promotes education, develops experience and raises aspirations of MHA tenants via offering: • MHA’s Volunteering scheme • MHA’s Computers in the Community scheme • MHA’s Bursary scheme • MHA’s Job Seeking Skills scheme • Lifelong Learning scheme Here are some of the ways in which the Work & Skills Wise service have helped you this year:

MHA’s Work & Skills Wise service - Promoting education, developing experience and raising aspirations

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4.4 WORK & SKILLS WISE UPDATES Way into Work 24 young people gained employment 3500 hours of volunteering undertaken 38 young people interviewed for local jobs Monmouthshire Housing Association and Monmouthshire Youth Service joined forces to deliver a project designed to improve employment prospects of young 18-24 year olds in Monmouthshire. The project was funded by the Department for Work & Pensions Flexible Support Fund and ran for nine months from September 2012 to May 2013. Five cohorts of young people were engaged in the project which ran over a period of six weeks each. The sessions included confidence building, developing communication, motivational skills, job seeking skills, CV writing, interview skills, searching the job market and undertaking up to 70 hours of volunteering work placements.

• 38 interviews were undertaken • Over 100 job applications were submitted as part of the programme Phase one of the Way into Work project was delivered by Leanne Ward and Jade West. Leanne continues to deliver phase 2 with Cath Murray. Jade is currently on leave to raise her daughter Scarlet, we would like to say a big thank you to Jade who was a great asset and has made a fantastic contribution to the success of the Way into Work scheme!

We achieved above the target of getting more than 20 young people into employment: • 48 young people engaged and completed the course programme • 50% of young people engaged in the programme gained employment

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Jade West

Leanne Ward


4.5 WORK & SKILLS WISE UPDATES The Real Truth of the Jobsearch It may sound delusional to look back and think that as soon as I finished my degree that I presumed that employers would be biting at my ankles to employ me. Unfortunately, no such luck! So after many months of applying for jobs and getting rejection letters or not even a reply, my spirits started to drop. On average having a bright, positive personality, it was a drastic change to start feeling unmotivated and disheartened. What was wrong with my applications? It was my lack of experience that was brought up in the handful of reply’s I actually received. My luck surely had to change, and as if it had fallen from the heavens I read an article in the Monmouthshire Beacon about a “Way into Work” programme. After unsuccessfully applying for jobs, I realised that I needed a change of tactics. So my next step was to approach the course leaders and get enrolled on the course. After hunting down the right people to speak to and travelling back and forth to Abergavenny’s Job Centre, I was fortunate enough to be enrolled onto the Way into

Work course. I was finally moving forward into a more encouragingly successful direction. The course not only facilitated me with the tools to improve my CV, cover letters and approach to my job search, but reunited me with the confidence I previously possessed. The work experience was incredibly valuable, giving me the tools and experiences to draw on when making job applications, which was considered to be the missing link when previously submitting any applications. The only advice I could give another jobseeker, is not the predictable: ‘stay positive’, because if you are receiving an abundance of rejection letters or no response at all, you are bound to feel deflated. But try to change your tactics, look out there; there are so many schemes and so much help available to you, you just need to find them. Put yourself out there! You can’t lose anything by trying, your luck will have to change at some point ... its inevitable!

Cath Murray

*I wrote this just after I completed the Way into Work course, I am now a fully fledged member of the MHA family and delivering the course that I was once on. Having this insider knowledge of how it feels to be a participant of the course. It has given me a greater understanding of what is needed, wanted and required. If you are in a similar situation to where I was and want to have a chat about what MHA are offering, then please get in contact and we will see where we can help. Call me on 01495 767193 / 07891 685750

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4.6 WORK & SKILLS WISE UPDATES MHA’s Job Seeking Skills programme “MHA helping you back on the road to work and training” A 6 week course of training and assistance to help secure your next position. MHA is now offering you a chance to come on to our 6 weeks training progamme, called Job Seeking Skills. We have a 50% success rate in getting people into employment. See below what we can offer you over the six weeks.

Trainings Programme Schedule

Week 1

Week 2

Searching the Job Market

Applications & form filling

How to search the internet, papers and other potential avenues for jobs.

How to complete a good job application form and secure that interview including cover letters

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

CV writing

One to one support when creating your CV & completing job applications

Interview techniques

Where next?

Why CV’s are important and how to develop a good CV

How to search the internet, papers and other potential avenues for jobs.

How to conduct yourself in an interview with useful hints and tips

Planning for success – support available and action planning for the future

Interested? Why not call Claire on 01495 767194 to book yourself on?

MHA Work and Skills Wise Project: promoting education, raising aspiration and building experience 26


5.1 WEB WISE PROJECT Web Wise Project Hi, My name is Paul your new Digital Inclusion Advisor for Monmouthshire Housing Association, helping you get online and getting the best out of the internet. I’m able to provide advice about: • Getting online • Job searching online • Getting the best deals on your gas and electricity • Help with getting affordable broadband and internet connections ...or just help with navigating the internet making rent payments online, reporting repairs online or submitting compliments and complaints online. I’ve been involved with technology most of my career so understand how best to help you to use computers and the internet to get the most out of it.

I’m able to set you up with an email address, letting you get in contact with companies instantly rather than waiting for a response by letter. You may have never used a computer before or have only just started using one. Either way I will be able to ‘coach’ you through the basic skills or help out with ‘Top Tips’ for using your computer and the internet. Before you know it, together we will be online searching for good deals for your utilities and broadband for you and your family. I’m able to come out to you wherever you are in Monmouthshire and either have a one to one session with you or if you prefer to be part of a small group this can also be organised. Remember.....”There’s always time to get online”

If you are nervous about using a computer but want to give it a go then I can help, I am patient and very understanding.

My contact details are: Direct Dial: 01495 761155 Mobile: 07896 868 560

Paul Collins Digital Inclusion Advisor 27


5.2 WEB WISE PROJECT Don’t have a computer? Can’t afford one? Cost of Internet too much? Read on, our Digital Inclusion Advisor may be able to help! MHA’s Computers in the Community Scheme There are a number of ways in which MHA can help you get online. The MHA’s Computers in the Community scheme can loan you a computer to use in the comfort of your own home, helping you to learn at your own pace. Providing you have completed three basic courses and are willing to study further, we can offer you a computer to use for those studies. Please note that this scheme is targeted at those who don’t have a computer and want to learn. This is a limited resource and cannot be open to all.

Computers in the Community scheme at The Lawns, Magor Want to buy a computer but can’t afford one? You could purchase a laptop or computer via the affordable computer scheme ‘Get Online @ Home’. Desktop computers are available for £99 if you are eligible (you need to be on certain benefits to qualify). If you’re not eligible you’ll still only pay £149. A laptop computer is available for £149 if you are eligible (you need to be on certain benefits to qualify), if you’re not eligible you’ll still only pay £179. If you are on any of the following benefits you are likely to qualify for the reduced cost scheme: • Housing Benefit • Income Support • Jobseeker’s Allowance • Pension Credit • Disability Living Allowance / Personal Independence Payments • Attendance Allowance / Constant Attendance Allowance • Carer’s Allowance • Incapacity Benefit / Employment and Support Allowance • Disability element of Working Tax Credit

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Paul Collins is your Digital Inclusion Advisor who can help you get a reduced cost laptop or computer. Call him on 01495 761155.


5.2 WEB WISE PROJECT Paying out a lot of money for your Internet connection? Want a better Broadband deal? Our Digital Inclusion Advisor can help you save money on how much you pay for your Internet. We are working with Simplified Digital to get you the most affordable deal. To find out more call Paul or call Simplify Digital directly on 0800 0901297 or go to the website www.broadband.getonlineathome.org

Save money, get online!

Welfare Reform Super Heroes During November we ran a Facebook advice campaign called #BeAware, to raise awareness of the benefit changes and what help MHA has to offer. Some of our staff hosted online sessions to give advice and help tenants with any questions they may have throughout the month. Have you logged onto our Facebook page? Why not check it out at www.facebook.com/Monmouthshire.Housing. There’s lots of advice and tips...

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is

5.3 WEB WISE PROJECT Our Digital Inclusion Advisor is out and about in Monmouthshire To make our digital inclusion services accessible to you, Paul our Digital Inclusion Advisor will be holding free drop in sessions for anyone interested or wanting advice on getting online. He will be in libraries across the county during the week and will also hold a drop in session at the Ace Centre in Abergavenny. Paul will be working alongside the Job Clubs. Please see below for further details.

Digital Drop Ins Mondays

Wednesdays

Thursdays

Fridays

Chepstow Library Manor Way, Chepstow, NP16 5HZ

Abergavenny Library Baker Street, Abergavenny, NP7 5BD

Caldicot Library Woodstock Way, Caldicot NP26 5DB

Monmouth Library The Rolls Hall, Whitecross St, Monmouth, NP25 3BY

Come along and I can give you one to one sessions on the uses, benefits and things to be aware of with social media from Facebook to Twitter.

Join me alongside the job club to assist you when accessing Universal Jobmatch and other job searching websites.

If internet security is something you are concerned about, join me and I can discuss different safety options to protect you and your computer.

I will be working alongside the Job Club – come along I can help you sign up to an email address and job alerts.

Drop in at the Ace Centre, Abergavenny Day: Monday afternoons Time: 2pm - 4pm Venue: ACE Centre: 29a Hillcrest Rd Abergavenny Monmouthshire NP7 6BN

Help available includes: • Impartial broadband options and deals • Universal Jobmatch and other job search related websites, including setting up job alerts • How Facebook and Twitter can assist or damage your job searching • Setting up an email address and working your way around a computer / laptop with one to one support. • Internet security and parental control options • Online banking and paying rent online • Reporting repairs and problems to MHA

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Do you Tweet? Do you know what Twitter is? Twitter is a way of getting information straight to your smart phone, computer or tablet. It’s like having your own personal news feed where you only get the information that you are interested in. Interested? What to find out more? Contact Paul on 01495 761155 P.S. Did you know MHA also have a Twitter account? You can follow us on Twitter and find out more about what we have got going on! For regular updates and to view our Twitter page, search @Mon_Housing.

Online Banking Make your rent payments direct to us using online banking. Not sure how to use online banking? Concerned about security and online fraud? Get in touch with Paul Collins our Digital Inclusion Advisor who can help you get online and show you the basics of online baking – allowing you to stay in control of your money! Book your appointment now. Call 01495 761155.

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5.7 WEB WISE PROJECT The Money Advice Service Did you know the Money Advice Service (MAS) is able to provide you free independent advice on money matters? They have a comprehensive website which you can access in the comfort of your own home? Paul, your Digital Inclusion Advisor, can help you get online and access this service.

The website also has a range of tools and planners to help you with day to day decisions around managing your money better.

Why is this being offered? To help everyone manage their money better, they give clear, unbiased money advice to help people make informed choices.

So what is the Money Advice Service?

How can I get access to the information?

The Money Advice Service is a free, independent service. They were set up by the government and are funded by a levy on the financial services industry.

Visit their website wwwmoneyadviceservice.org.uk

Because they’re not selling anything you can trust their advice.

What is being offered? The MAS can help with a wide range of money issues including: • helping you to manage your budget • providing independent advice about savings and borrowing money • giving advice about pensions and planning for the future • giving advice about managing debt • helping you to manage money as a parent; through maternity and adoption or planning to support a child’s education • what to consider if you are going through a divorce or separation

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What if I don’t have a computer or the internet? Not to worry! Paul can pop out with a computer and show you how to use the website. He can also help to see if you can get a free laptop or help you buy one at very reduced rates. Give Paul a call on 01495 761155 and see if he can can help.

Money Matters 2013  
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