A day in the Life

Patricia Gilfillan-Hughes

Money Advice & Welfare Support Assistant

The remit for my post is to provide an excellent service to tenants and factored owners with an aim to mitigate when possible the effect of Welfare Reform and deliver money advice.

On a typical day I begin by checking and responding to my voicemail, email and daily diary tasks.

If this is an outreach surgery day I will attend Dundasvale Housing Office arriving for my first appointment at 10 O'Clock and have appointments until noon. Dependant on the complexity of the enquiry appointments are arranged for either a half an hour or one hour long.

Enquiries can range from a checking to see if tenants have additional or further entitlement to benefits, complete benefit applications, advise on decisions made by DWP or Housing Benefit and assisting tenants to request reconsiderations or to appeal these decisions. I also liaise with other agencies to address money and debt issues.  

In the afternoon I catch up with paperwork and case recording. I am also available to see tenants at triage for emergencies. Triage is for tenants who find themselves in a situation that requires to be attended to urgently.

For the most part, it is when I will see our most vulnerable tenants with challenges due to issues with drugs, alcohol or mental health.  By the time they seek advice their situation is usually at a crisis point. Their benefits stopped, they have no money, no food and no gas or electricity. This is often because they have not been able to deal with paperwork or attended an appointment at the Jobcentre or a centre for a work capability assessment.

 

What’s needed in this situation is calmness and re-assurance that the tenant can be assisted. Immediately I am able to access food vouchers for a local foodbank, make an application for an SWF crisis grant if successful money is available in 24 hours. Arrange with utility companies to provide emergency credit for gas and electricity. I will then liaise with the DWP to sort out the issues around the tenants stopped benefit payments.

Working in a Housing Association means issues around Housing Benefit and rent arrears are a daily occurrence. I work in collaboration with Housing Officers and Assistants on a daily basis to sustain tenancies.

 My job can be tough but there are frequent moments of real satisfaction when you make a difference for tenants. It can be amusing too, tenants want to show you their scars and wounds while you complete an application for health related benefits (despite my reminders I am not medically trained).

On reflection I think it is a misnomer to refer to a ‘typical day’ as in this job there is really no such thing.