Rent Support

Relief and support during Covid-19: A list of links and resources

Relief and support during Covid-19: A list of links and resources

We’ve put together a list of webpages and resources where people can find up-to-date information and support while the UK is tackling the Coronavirus crisis. In particular, these links are for those people who may be living in precarious situations, facing financial hardship, housing insecurity, or mental health concerns. Follow the links below to find information on managing bills, dealing with landlords, and more.

We have also included resources for groups who may be at a higher risk of either illness or who are likely to become vulnerable during the lockdown period, which you can find below.

Last updated 04.04.20

Links to Government Covid-19 relief measures

The Government has issued a list of what it considered key workers at this time and therefore who has school eligibility at this time: Guidance for schools and education providers.

The Government’s full guidance for tenants, landlords, housing providers and local authorities can be found here. The current measures mean no-one (including private renters, social renters, property guardians, and people in TA) will face eviction for three months, and LHA rates have been increased to cover 30% of rent.

Turn2Us has a regularly updated webpage with guidance on all the new and existing benefits. This page also includes a benefits calculator and a list of grants available for people in financial hardship.

StepChange, the debt charity, also has advice about how to manage bills and debts during this time, with advice about what creditors and utility companies may do to help individuals unable to pay.

The government has promised that utility companies will not be allowed to disconnect credit meters at this time, and customers in financial distress will be supported by their energy company to look at options for reducing payments or debts.  This link also includes advice for people with pre-pay meters, and a list of utility company helplines.

Several mobile and internet providers including Vodaphone, EE and O2 have agreed to protect vulnerable customers by removing broadband data caps, providing support to those who cannot meet their bills, and offer affordable packages.

And here is information about how parents and carers can access supermarket vouchers for children eligible for free school meals.

Guidance and support for specific groups

BME groups

The Race Equality Foundation has guidance on how Covid-19 may impact black and minority ethnic people. While BME groups generally have a younger average age, risk factors like heart disease and diabetes are higher in African/Caribbean and South Asian groups. BME people are also more likely to be in key worker occupations and more likely to live in overcrowded conditions than white British people, and therefore potentially at higher risk of exposure to infection.

Victims of domestic abuse

Solace Women’s Aid, the Public interest Law Centre, and other specialist VAWG groups are concerned we will see a surge in violence in the home, as victims of abuse are unable to leave the home. They are calling for urgent action for domestic violence survivors during the lockdown, with a letter to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. They are also calling for refuges to receive ring fenced Coronavirus funding.

Solace are also offering four 1-hour webinars for FREE about how to support DV survivors at this time.

Renters

Measures to protect private renters were revised over the last week and may still change again, but for now Generation Rent has gathered the latest Government support packages that are available, and how to access them.

Shelter has regularly updated guidance for both renters and home owners about their rights and benefits during this time.

But there are calls for more to be done, and London Renters Union are calling for rent suspensions, in line with the mortgage holidays offered to homeowners. They also have drafted a template letter renters can use to negotiate rent holidays or decreases with their landlord.

Asylum seekers and refugees

The Home Office has pledged to stop evicting asylum seekers from government accommodation for a period of three months once their claim or appeal is decided. A decision will be made on Friday 3rd April about whether to suspend No Recourse to Public Funds policy.

Here is useful advice for supporting migrants and asylum seekers during the crisis, with additional helplines. And here is a petition calling for people being held in immigration detention to be released so they can have proper access to healthcare.

Children in temporary accommodation

The Lancet has written a short comment about how children in temporary accommodation are at high risk of exposure to Covid-19 and potential direct and indirect health impacts of isolating in overcrowded, shared or confined spaces.

Disabled people

Scope has lots of information for disabled people about support that is available at this time. And here is guidance for tackling isolation during a time of ‘physical distancing’ to keep us socially connected, from AbilityNet, a charity that aims to ensure IT is available to everyone regardless of ability, including older and disabled people.

Concerns have been raised by disabled rights organisations that emergency changes to the Care Act means that local authorities could suspend their duties and refuse people assessments and care.

People with mental illness

Rethink Mental Illness has put together questions and answers for people living with mental illness and those who care for them, including prescriptions and carer visits. The government also made emergency changes to the Mental Health Act last week, causing some concern that increased government powers will make it easier for people to be detained.

 

Local Covid-19 mutual aid groups

Bexley

Bexley Borough Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group (Facebook group)

Covid 19 – Mutual Aid Bexley Support & Inspiration (Facebook group)

Isolation Help Bexley

Hackney

Hackney Covid 19 Mutual Aid (Facebook group)

The Boiler House N16

Tower Hamlets

Tower Hamlets Covid 19 Community Support (Facebook group)

Stepney Green mutual aid group (WhatsApp group)

Limehouse Aid (WhatsApp group)

Search for a mutual aid group in your area or for a friend in need: Covid Mutual Aid UK

Posted by kineara in Community, Education, Employment, Housing, Latest
Kineara’s team ‘missionstorm’ day: An update

Kineara’s team ‘missionstorm’ day: An update

Last month, our team decided it was time for a moment of reflection. With several new projects coming up at the end of this year, and a busy 2020 in the works, we knew it was the perfect opportunity to take a step back and take stock of where we have come from, where we are going and make sure that we do not lose sight of our mission as we grow. Rather than a brainstorm, we decided what we needed was a ‘missionstorm’, and this is the task we set ourselves.

As many people working in the social enterprise world will know, new opportunities, connections and projects offer both exciting possibilities and an inevitable challenge. For us, the biggest challenge was this: How do we bring our support services into new contexts without compromising our mission? How do we make sure that we are staying true to our values and putting the needs of those we serve first? How do we make sure our whole team collaborates and contributes to our projects and mission?

Since Kineara was first founded with our Rent Support Programme (RSP), which addresses and prevented evictions of vulnerable families in social housing, our offer has expanded to include mid-term tenancy sustainment programmes, educational wellbeing and support, employment support and our most recently designed intervention, Resettling, which has been created for people who have been homeless or in temporary accommodation to move back into sustainable housing with our support. In amongst that, we’ve still found the time to deliver community cohesion projects and been part of innovative participatory research on issues of housing services and improving pathways through temporary accommodation.

Throughout that time, we’ve kept to Kineara’s ethos: that all our support is 1) holistic, understanding that people’s lives are complex, with often multiple challenges that impact each other; and 2) people-centred and strength-based, so that we always recognise and emphasise the skills, aspirations and strengths that are inherent in everyone.

Nonetheless, as our provision ramps up we knew it was important that, as a team, we were all working towards the same mission, and driving towards the same goal. We looked at how other organisations larger and smaller than ours, both in the charity sector and outside of it, wrote about their mission and what it said about them. And then, we looked again at our own mission and asked ourselves the question, does this still speak to the heart of our work? What really is driving us? What do we really want to see as a result of the work we are creating?

And after some discussion, we refined our thoughts into a new mission statement:

It was then time to take a good look at our values. While it was all very well putting a mission statement together, what good was it if our values weren’t aligned to it? So, we took the opportunity to choose and discuss key values that motivated each of us in our lives and work, to build an understanding of our team’s character and motivations. It was wonderful to see what people felt was most important to them – sincerity, effectiveness, passion, respect, self-awareness, resilience, accountability, justice and collaboration – were all named as key values in their lives and work.

As anyone who works in social impact will understand, it is the passion reflected in the words above that motivates many to commit to serving people and communities in their work. With such a committed team, it was easy to consolidate these shared individual values into a set of principles that will guide Kineara’s approach and work for the next year.

With the revised mission and updated values in mind, we then turned our attention to project mapping. Of course, as a social business with a community focus, project planning is made that bit more challenging because we not only need clear aims, goals, monitoring plans and a valid theory of change, but we also need to make sure each project is also financially viable so that we can be sustainable and continue to grow. This was our jumping point; as a small organisation with multiple projects running together, we felt that honing our processes, roles and expectations would be key for achieving our mission as a team.

So we took the time to envision a life cycle of a typical Kineara project, creating for ourselves a live ‘map’ where we are able to see at what stage each of our team members are needed, what contributions they may make to each phase and how each role intersects with the each other.

This became a really valuable and useful exercise that gave each team member far greater clarity over the important part they play in our project delivery and achievements. We are, clearly, a sum of our parts! In many ways, the exercise was a humbling one which left each of us with a great appreciation for each other’s work, as well as a recognition of how we work together throughout a project to bring it to completion.

Posted by kineara in Impact, Latest
Bad housing makes us sick – and what we can do about it

Bad housing makes us sick – and what we can do about it

 

We attended a recent conference in London exploring how housing effects our health, and how we can come together to fix the broken system. Our practitioner Sandra Axell reports back.

‘Bad housing makes us sick’ was a housing conference put together by Homes for All, Doctors Unite and Unite Housing Workers in London last Saturday. More than 100 people, including housing campaigners, doctors and health workers, trade union members and tenant representatives came together to share ideas and inspire new action plans. The brilliant guest speakers gave us all food for thought and below we share a summary of the topics that were discussed.

How the financialisation of housing is a global crisis

Raquel Rolnik, professor of urban planning at University of Sao Paulo, suggests that housing has moved on from being a valued

Raquel Rolnik

as a human right to being viewed as a commodity that is financially motivated. In the 1980’s both Thatcher in the UK and Regan in the US introduced schemes to sell off houses in public ownership; in the UK the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme gave council tenants an opportunity to buy their home, but as more and more housing has gone into private hands new social housing has not been built, leading to many countries having a rental market that has become a ‘finance playground’.

Watch Raquel Rolnik’s speech here.

Journalist Dawn Foster, who writes for the Guardian newspaper among others, highlighted that the Conservative Government’s recent ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, which was also put in place to encourage more home ownership, has been hijacked by large house building companies have used government subsidies to pay out big bonuses rather than lowering the house prices. Research show that the market prices was pushed up with as much as the government discount paid out, meaning that essentially, rather than make house prices more affordable, the cost has remained the same for the buyer and the profit has gone to the house builders.

In addition, the gap between rent and wages are growing. According to Shelter, between 2011 and 2017 the average rent increased by 16% nationally while wages only increased by 10%. But there are exceptions where the divide is much larger. In Barking and Dagenham, the wages in the same period only went up by 2%, but rents increased by 40%. The new benefits cap of £20,000 a year means that 97% of 2-bedroom properties on the privately rented market are unaffordable.

Dawn Foster

The panelists agreed that it is time to begin viewing housing as a human right again, and that to provide stable and secure housing for families, we should be focused on building more social housing and introducing rent controls. This is not only the ethical approach, but an affordable one: When the government invests in building social housing for everyone, in about 5-10 years the dwelling has paid for itself and the tenants rent payments go back into the accounts of local authorities, instead of to private landlords. Meanwhile, rent controls and longer tenancies within the private sector offers security to both landlords and renters, and prevents bigger landlords using the market as an investment and pushing up prices. This supports smaller landlords who have homes to rent and need the security of long term rent payments and tenancies.

Health in housing

Dr Jackie Applebee from Doctors Unite spoke about how bad housing is affecting health. Studies have suggested that homelessness can reduce life expectancy by 30 years and poor accommodation and living in poverty has a severe impact on life expectancy as well. People in temporary housing and social housing are often living in overcrowded conditions due to shortage of suitable properties. The lack of social housing or affordable housing means that people have to move more often, sometimes several times a year. Every time a household is relocated, they lose contact with their community and the support network that is available to them. Therefore, moving from a property affects social relationships and has a negative impact on mental health.

Terminus in Harlow is one example of how overcrowding affects mental and physical health. The 14 stories 1960’s office block has been turned into housing without needing planning permission. The very small rooms are filled with families and single residents from councils in and around London and they are often may miles away from places and people that they know. Crime has risen in the area with around 40% since the tower block was converted and families are scared to let their children out of the room. Therefore, there is no place for the children to play or do homework, and the adults have got no privacy. Jackie, who works as a GP in Whitechapel, has seen the impact that overcrowding has on health. She says that sharing a small space is likely to lead to infections as conditions spread easily, leaving people are more prone to illnesses.

Next, Hannah Slater from Generation Rent spoke about how the insecurity of the private rented market is another factor that can affect mental health. The private rented market is growing due to a shortage of council houses, along with a steep rise in houses prices that are forcing more people to rent. The Royal London suggests that half the children born in the UK are starting their lives in rented accommodation. Most tenancy contracts are ‘Assorted Shorthold Leases’ with only a 6 month agreement. And under Section 21 rules, the landlords can evict the tenant after the agreement has ended without providing a reason. This leads to families having to relocate, losing the community that they have created, as well as their relationship with healthcare professionals and services around them. Biomarkers used in a study have indicated that people living in rented accommodation have higher level of stress chemicals in their blood compared to home owners.

Figures show that a third of private rented properties fail basic health and safety checks due to problems with, for example, damp and mould. But Section 21 means that tenants do not have any security, and they avoid making any complaints about the property as they face being evicted if they do.

Due to the increasing number of private renters, political parties have started to take notice of housing campaigns as private renters now represent a large part of their constituency. The Mayor of London has promised to abolish Section 21, and the Labour Party has added it to their manifesto after pressure from campaigners. Another suggestion to increase the security for private renters is to have a national register of landlords and for Councils to have more control of licensing schemes that they apply for.

Coming together for action

The conference agreed on a few points of action that the difference groups and movements could work towards together. They included things like:

  • Supporting and building the 15th June ‘Grenfell – Never Again’ protest march in
    central London.
  • Ensuring housing rights are enacted and reinforced, backed by a strengthened independent tenant organisation.
  • Calling for an enforceable right to repairs for all tenants, linked to a
    regular inspection regime.
  • Advocating for grant funding for existing and new council housing.
  • Campaigning around connected issues such as Universal Credit, bringing empty properties into use, reducing temporary accommodation, the sale of public land and investment in the NHS.
  • Backing the Charter for Housing Action in 2019 and extend the alliance for action.
Posted by kineara in Community, Housing, Latest
Reflections on Reimagining Rent: 1 year on

Reflections on Reimagining Rent: 1 year on

One year on from starting the Reimagining Rent programme, Kineara’s director Maria Morgan talks about our progress since leaving their first cohort of participants, and how the programme has helped us develop our Rent Support Programme (RSP+), a new and upcoming venture aiming to reduce evictions for vulnerable tenants in the private rented sector using holistic support.

How did you find the Reimagining Rent programme?

The Young Foundation (YF) found me actually, which is amazing! Last year, Kineara held a workshop with Azuko and Poplar Harca, where we invited professionals and practitioners across the housing sector to discuss how we could improve the journey through temporary housing. It was during the workshop that I met Radhika Bynon from YF and she told me about Reimagining Rent and encouraged me to apply. I asked when the deadline was and she said, “today!” So I went home and started the application straightaway.

It’s the best thing we did because prior to that we were delivering the programme on a much smaller scale, and only really working with organisations who already knew about us, stayed with us and continued to renew their partnerships with us. It was a blessing that we made it onto the programme at such short notice, and it was exactly what we needed to elevate our work. The most exciting thing about Reimagining Rent is the common desire to make the private rented sector work better for vulnerable people, and that’s certainly what we’re all about at Kineara.

How have you been reimagining Kineara and the Rent Support Programme (RSP)?

The inspiration for our programmes comes from the FIP (Family Intervention Project) model: a dedicated keyworker approach with intensive, purposeful intervention. I took the ethos of the FIP model as the foundation to write Kineara’s first programme, the RSP, viewing rent arrears as a trigger issue and shortening the intervention. But we wrote RSP in 2011, before the housing crisis had become so entrenched and before the worst of the welfare reforms. So I had to ask myself: how can RSP continue to make a difference in the changing context of housing?

At the same time, I’d been thinking about how to scale up Kineara’s work and expand our reach but also take the programme into the private sector for vulnerable tenants. It took time for the idea to fully form and it finally came when I was sitting in a Reimagining Rent session listening to a speaker, I think it was Susan Aktemel actually. I was listening to her and then OMG! The penny dropped.

We’re now beginning to have conversations with Local Authorities about RSP+ and I don’t yet know the outcome of this work, but we’re motoring ahead and wishing for the best. I hope that RSP+ can be duplicated across councils. I’d like our original RSP to be resurrected within housing providers too, and working on scaling up all of Kineara’s work, which was one of the drivers for me joining Reimagining Rent.

As an organisation, we are reshuffling the way we do things to make it more efficient. I have an amazing team full of great people. We are all in it together and Kineara is not a one man band. I’ve been so blessed to have such amazing people to go join me on this journey.

It’s been exciting to see the development of the Rent Support Programme Plus (RSP+) pilot in the last few months. Can you explain more about the new model we are piloting?

First of all, it is about working with Local Authorities to connect, support and engage both landlords and private tenants in their boroughs. Many councils have now introduced Landlord Licensing Schemes and accreditation schemes to help improve standards, and most do offer some form of advice line for private tenant in insecure tenancies or who are threatened with homelessness.

Of course, our RSP is not a silver bullet for all housing issues. But I asked myself, how can we build on the kind of support we’ve delivered with our social housing tenants in the past and extend it to the most vulnerable tenants in the PRS? As far as I could see, there were no other services providing this offer. So the first part of this pilot is to offer RSP to council’s and work with them to strengthen their relationship with private landlords, offering alternative options to issuing Section 21’s, preventing additional costs to the council in the form of re-housing, temporary accommodation and the rest, as well as, of course, preventing homelessness for households.

If you live in a council property, there is a far greater obligation to work things out with the tenant when problems arise such as rent arrears. It made me reflect on why a private landlord want to pay for a service like RSP when they can issue a Section 21 and have a brand-new paying tenant come into their property. This is why our delivery model is much stronger working with Local Authorities and they can also save a lot of money by participating. The difference between RSP and RSP+ is that the original programme is delivered for social housing tenants where the housing association pays for the intervention, whereas in RSP+ the Council invests in the programme, offering landlords a route away from eviction via our service and enabling intensive support to be delivered to private sector tenants whose vulnerability often goes under Local Authorities’ radar until a households’ needs become urgent.

Finally, do you have any advice for this year’s cohort?

My advice to them is be open.

Sometimes we can defend what we know and we miss out on learning something new – it’s a trap I have fallen into. Just let go and be open to allow your mind to think, take in new ideas and think creatively. And use the room, use the space, use the people around you. If you immerse yourself in that experience you will get so much more from it. It was the best thing that we’ve done as Kineara. It has really elevated our thinking. And I would say to everybody, enjoy it and make the most of it!

The group are very varied which is amazing. They seem to be coming from different perspectives but have the same goal, which is working to make the private rented sector better for vulnerable people, including those on low incomes. It’s also a useful opportunity to reflect on where society is at. There are so many changes in the UK, and it’s important that we have a strong foundation and identity about what we are doing, but have the flexibility to meet changing needs.

I would like to also say thanks to The Young Foundation for delivering such an impactful programme. Looking at the cohort that I was part of as well as the new cohort of participants, the ideas people are developing are pretty incredible and being introduced to investors who are willing and keen to support projects with a social purpose is awesome.

All the best to the new cohorts!

You can read the blog in full on the Young Foundation’s website.

Posted by kineara, 0 comments

Kineara begins a new integrated rent and employment support programme

We are really excited to have begun a new programme this summer, with an ambitious aim to support 80 people into employment over the next two years.

The new Intensive Employment Support Programme has been developed alongside Tower Hamlets Family Intervention Project across the borough, and combines Kineara’s flagship Rent Support Programme to create a unique model designed that integrates rent support and employment support into one.

We have already begun working with several residents of Poplar Harca Housing Association, with other housing associations already expressing interest running the service alongside their existing employment support work.

Our Rent Support Programme has already been successful in preventing evictions for families whose rent arrears had led them to the brink of eviction proceedings, with 97% of residents who completed the programme remaining in their homes after the intensive 10 week intervention.

Many of those families were among the thousands in Tower Hamlets who have faced unemployment and the precariousness it causes. These challenges have also recently been intensified by the benefit cap reductions and extended welfare reform. We have been able to secure training or employment for nearly half of the residents we’ve worked with, which has had a huge impact whether they are able to keep a secure tenancy.

We’re excited to bring our expertise to a context we know well. We’ll be able to connect residents with all kinds of useful services already available in the borough but that some people face barriers engaging with, like job broker Skills Match, Workforce Development, Bromley by Bow, as well as employment bodies linked to the Family Intervention Service and the local community.

As always, a dedicated support worker will work intensively with jobseekers using the same holistic approach that guides all our work, making sure that their overall wellbeing is taken into account. This might mean making sure therapeutic support is available, or skills training, or access to proper healthcare, so that people are able to secure work that is not only stable but also suited to them and their needs.

This project contributes to a new borough wide strategy to tackle unemployment, which includes training and support for local people to find job opportunities in the borough – as well as supporting businesses to create quality and well paid jobs locally – as one of its top employment priorities for 2016-17. This is important for another of its priorities, which is to ensure local low-income residents can access decent housing in the borough, which is becoming increasingly expensive and threatens to price out local residents.

Posted by kineara in Employment, Latest