RSP+

Event: Shaping support services for private renters in Southwark

Event: Shaping support services for private renters in Southwark

Would you like to know how we’re supporting private renters in Southwark?

We are holding a virtual showcase for sector partners and community groups to hear about our work delivering the Southwark Private Renters Project in the borough. Come along to find out how we are supporting private renters to sustain tenancies and gain greater housing security. Register here.

The 60-minute session will cover:

• How the project is tackling barriers to secure, safe, affordable housing for private renters in Southwark

• How you can refer to the project

• What support do private renters and landlord receive from the project?

• How your service can collaborate with Kineara

• Hear from a client with lived experience about their journey

• Hear from other services in the borough including Southwark Law Centre, Impact on Urban Health and Southwark Council

Everyone is welcome, you don’t need to be based in Southwark to attend.

Register on Eventbrite. Instructions on how to join will be provided on registration.

Posted by kineara in Community, Event, Housing
Linking with landlords: Interview with Aisha

Linking with landlords: Interview with Aisha

At the start of our second year in Southwark supporting private tenants at risk with holistic housing and legal support, we added a new role to the team. Our Housing Link Worker, Aisha, tells us more about how it works.

Q. Can you tell me a bit about the work you deliver and your role on the project?

As a Housing Link Worker, it’s my job to mediate between landlords and tenants to see if I can strengthen an existing relationship to sustain the tenancy, or where someone’s tenancy cannot be sustained, to network and reach out to new landlords and agents and build relationships with them to accept new tenants.

Q. Can you tell me about some mediation you have done with a client and landlord?

Recently, I mediated with a landlord who was taking their tenant to court to evict. The tenant had been issued a notice but at that point was refusing to leave, so I visited them at home to find out more. The client was really upset; they felt the landlord had been harassing her. The tenant had had little contact with the Council, and the landlord also didn’t know what was going on. There were no arrears either – the landlord was entitled to the property back, but the tenant had no-where to go. While I was at the house, I called landlord and introduced myself. I let them speak for a while and explained what I could do to support them both. This calmed them down a lot, and said ‘OK, I won’t come over again tomorrow and I’ll leave it in your hands’.

Since then, opportunities for tenancies have come up and fallen through. The landlords calls and messages quite regularly, to find out what the tenant is doing in terms of moving on. Often tenants don’t update them because so much mistrust has built over time. The landlord thinks the worst, that the tenant is not doing anything. I will get in touch with then to let them know what viewings are coming up, what the tenants are up to, and it eases their mind.

‘Thank you, it was just nice to be able to have someone to talk to when everyone was making me out to be a bad landlord, in fact, I wasn’t getting paid the rent putting me in financial trouble, I appreciate having someone to listen to me and help get me get answers.’

Most of the landlords I’ve worked with just want to be heard. Sometimes they complain they don’t have support themselves from other service or the Council, and that sometimes the advice they give to tenant contradicts what’s right for them. Not all of them have it easy. One landlord was badly affected by Covid; she had reduced rent for tenant so they could keep up with payments, but she lost her job and so became dependent on rent as her only source of income and had to pursue eviction as a result. When it comes to paying off arrears, for example, many landlords are willing to give it some time while we apply for benefits, DHPs and other things to improve incomes. Then we can negotiate repayments in way that is affordable for the tenant and the landlord can trust the process.

Q. You came into a new role in the team in a position we hadn’t had before, the Housing Link Worker. We realized that we needed good relationships with landlords and were able to find suitable properties for our clients. How was it starting off in a completely new role?

What attracted me was the job description, because of experience in the kind of thing, so I wasn’t intimidated initially. But it was quite daunting starting out as it was up to me to start building connections and relationships with agents and landlords in the borough. The first few months were tough! And its hard when tenants have knockbacks – one client called me this week after being turned down by a landlord and she was devastated, and I know how hard it’s been for her.

Q. It can be difficult finding landlords with who are willing to rent to tenants who are low income. What kind of responses do you get from new landlords when you first approach them with a client?

We do work with landlords who rent specifically to tenants referred via the council and so have a longer experience of doing so. But whether they are experienced or not, often its all about relationship building and trust.

One landlord we now work with will take on any client we bring because he trusts what we are doing. They key is once we’ve housed someone with them, they feel more comfortable with new tenants we bring to them. I will often coach tenant before viewings, just to make sure they present the best of themselves.

There are landlords that prefer to deal with myself because of my relationship with the Council and the incentive scheme. We can discuss the administrative side of things, go through tenancy agreements, set up Universal Credit, all of that. For example, some tenants get stressed moving from, say, ESA to UC. Most landlords insist that they have UC, so I can say that I am going to sit down with them and make sure it is all set up properly and this eases their minds.

‘They are both absolutely excellent. They are balanced, honest, friendly, reliable and kind. They respect confidentiality, clearly know the legal and ethical aspects of their role and deal with challenges in a mature way. It’s really obvious that they care about their work and want to do their best. Even if this particular tenant situation does not come to any resolution without legal proceedings, it does not detract from their exceptional attitude and energy in trying to move this on.’

But when it comes to incentives, I’ve had to be quite headstrong negotiating as there are landlords who are aware they can receive competing offers from other Councils. But we try to take advantage of this for the tenant. If the rent is affordable for them, I’ll check in with the Housing officer as to how can be offered. The landlord almost always asks for more, so I’ve begun to negotiate longer tenancies in return, to guarantee that there is more security. So I have got a few 24 months tenancies for clients, at rent that is affordable for them, and we know they will be stable for at least a couple of years. Its about convincing everyone that the terms are right for them.

Q. It’s been hard work by the sounds of it – but are you feeling proud of what you’ve been able to achieve?

Yes! Finally housing a number of clients within the last couple of months has felt great. Particularly one that I’ve worked with for 6 months, who had been in temporary accommodation after being evicted and who has just moved in this week. There have been so many knock backs in that time, and it’s been hard for her and hard for me too. We’ve gone on a real journey together.

Also, building relationships with landlords and bringing them into our fold is something I’m really proud of. I always get excited when I see a text or email from landlords saying we’ve got these properties, or they call me and tell me the properties they got! Its feels like we’re building new possibilities in the borough for renters, and it great to be a part of it.

Posted by kineara in Community, Health and Wellbeing, Housing
New Covid eviction prevention project for Southwark residents gets underway

New Covid eviction prevention project for Southwark residents gets underway

PRESS RELEASE
November 2020

Our new programme will provide essential intensive support to renters in the private sector who are threatened with eviction

We’re excited to announce a new Covid Private Renters Project for tenants in Southwark, delivering our intensive 10-week intervention with residents with complex needs to address arrears, financial hardship, health and wellbeing concerns that have led to an insecure tenancy.

We’ve developed a unique intervention for tenants and landlords that combines intensive practical and wellbeing support, legal advice, and mediation. It is designed to meet a pressing current need in which legal uncertainties around eviction, increasing arrears and financial hardship, and insecure employment could potentially lead to a rise in homelessness across the UK. The project aims to prevent that by strengthening landlord-tenant communication and supporting mediation, as well as specialist legal support provided our partners, Southwark Law Centre.

The programme will be delivered in partnership with Southwark Council and Southwark Law Centre with funding from Guys’ and St Thomas’ Charity. As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, housing is a key driver of health, and secure, safe housing is foundational to our health outcomes. We’re excited to be collaborating with these partners to support the health and wellbeing of residents in the Southwark by addressing housing as a social determinant of health.

Councillor Helen Dennis, cabinet member for social support and homelessness, said: “Tackling homelessness has always been best approached as prevention rather than cure. So we’re delighted to be able to support those in the private sector who are vulnerable to becoming homeless due to eviction. Alongside Kineara and Southwark Law Centre, we hope to use a collaborative approach to help people remain in a safe and secure home with their families, especially during such difficult and economically uncertain times.”

The project comes at a critical time for renters in the private sector, as the Government’s eviction moratorium came to an end on 20th September. Shelter estimates that over 300,000 renters have fallen into arrears since the pandemic started, with perhaps many more in danger of being made homeless once the furlough scheme ends and unemployment rises.

Kieron Boyle, CEO at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity says: “We know that the economic impact of the pandemic disproportionately affects those who already shoulder the greatest burden of ill health. We’re delighted to be working with Kineara, Southwark Council and the Southwark Law Centre to protect the health of those at risk of eviction. Through a package of practical support we can help prevent insecure housing driving health inequalities. This will have impact locally as well as important lessons for national policy.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

About Kineara

Kineara is an award winning community interest company that offers holistic support services to families, individuals and young people going through challenges in housing, education and employment.

About Southwark Law Centre

Southwark Law Centre is a charity whose mission is the relief of poverty, suffering and distress through the provision of free, specialist and confidential legal advice.

About Guys’ St Thomas’ Charity

Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity is an independent urban health foundation. They work with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and others to improve health in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, and beyond.

For media enquiries contact Melanie Sirinathsingh on 07800545607 and msirinathsingh@kineara.co.uk, or visit our website www.kineara.co.uk

Posted by kineara in Community, Housing, Latest
New focus group results reveal more is needed to support vulnerable tenants in the private sector

New focus group results reveal more is needed to support vulnerable tenants in the private sector

Here we report the findings from our recent private landlords’ focus group conducted in July, made up of five landlords with differing experiences and backgrounds.

Participants indicated letting properties across England, from Hackney, Fulham, Wandsworth, Cheshire, Dover/Deal/Sandwich, Cardiff and Barnet.

The challenges faced by landlords varied from helping tenants or dealing with tenant issues, dealing with local authorities to having to pay extra stamp duty on their properties. Interestingly, for the same landlord, helping tenants was also the most rewarding aspect of being a landlord, whilst others enjoyed the financial benefits and the satisfaction of sourcing and refurbishing property for rental.

Reflecting on their relationships with their tenants and the local councils, 80% of participants said councils do not provide adequate support for their tenants, however, one landlord differed, “For me, in my experience of being a landlord in Wales, the council are very interactive with landlords and hold meetings in different boroughs.” As for relationships with tenants, 20% dealt entirely with their tenants from the start, whilst 40% used or continue to use a letting agent to manage the properties.

Speaking on pursuing evictions during the last 12 months, 40% of landlords surveyed said the principle reason was due to rent arrears. One landlord said, “I worked with my tenants but had to send them a section 8 Notice to protect myself. They are still in the property and have now paid back all the arrears. I also delayed a rental increase for another year to help them, even though I was losing money due to inflation!”

Asked what a support service might look like, one landlord said that a wellbeing support service sounded good in theory, but in practice they weren’t sure if it would have prevented the eviction.  Further, 80% of respondents believed that financial support and mediation would potentially prevent evictions, however, the support would have to be tailored to the individual situation.

This reinforces the idea behind the holistic nature of Kineara’s housing support services, which includes advice, guidance and advocacy for all families and individuals we work with on matters of housing, including rent arrears, eviction threats, conditions in the home and more.

The intensive support offers practical, financial, wellbeing and therapeutic support for tenants, as well as strengthening the relationships between tenant and landlord, if needed, and connecting landlords to services that can avoid the costs of eviction while putting resources towards the wellbeing of their tenants.

Find out more about our RSP+ and housing support services.

Posted by kineara in Housing, Research
How housing affects our health

How housing affects our health

Rujia first visited Kerri in her home last October, when she arranged to meet her family to talk about how she could support Kerri into work. Kerri’s landlord had referred her to Kineara’s intensive employment support programme as she had been out of work since suffering a stroke in 2006. With 3 children and unable to work, she struggled to cover costs for the family.

When Rujia entered the flat, though, it was not Kerri who greeted her first. Instead, the first thing that she noticed was the thick, stale and acrid smell of mould and damp that had filled the air inside the small two bedroom flat.

For several months, mould had been growing on the bathroom wall and had begun creeping through the shared walls with the children’s bedroom. Fungus had started to form in the corners, leaving the air thick and making it difficult to breathe. In the living room, cracks in the walls meant that water streamed down the paint onto the carpet, leaving the whole room cold, damp and unliveable. And yet, living with these conditions was, Kerri believed, the only option.

How our home affects our health

Since Kineara began delivering housing support services, we’ve witnessed housing conditions facing many social and private tenants that were simply unfit for habitation. Damp and mould are common problems in older housing where ventilation is poor, and the issue is particularly prevalent in the private sector where a third of properties do not meet basic health and safety standards. The standard covers more than damp and mould however, and includes issues of warmth and structural safety, infestations, having the right facilities and overcrowding.

For families living in the most deprived neighbourhoods, poor quality housing is taking its toll on both physical and mental health. The National Housing Federation estimates that the health effects of poor housing is costing up to £2 billion per year in treatment. Poor conditions can lead to a host of health concerns, from asthma, wheezing, headaches and respiratory illness caused by damp and mould, to tuberculosis and meningitis which spread far more easily in overcrowded conditions. Hazards, fire and accidents are also more common in poorly built and maintained homes, and are more likely to happen in more deprived neighbourhoods. Poor housing can impact long term health too, increasing the risk of long term illness or disability by 25% during childhood.

Mental health and housing insecurity

It is not just the conditions of a home, however, that can have a negative impact on a person’s health. Housing insecurity, risks of homelessness and evictions, or unaffordable housing costs have all been shown to impact mental health in acute ways, especially when we consider how housing connects to a person or family’s financial stability. In the UK, an additional 3.1 million people are in poverty once housing costs have been paid, with one million of those being in London. In the private rented sector, 18% of tenants are in poverty before housing costs are paid; this figure increases to 38% once housing costs are paid. In part this is because rental prices have risen far more quickly and far higher than wages. In over half on English districts, rents reach a third of local average full time pay; this increased to more than half average full time pay In London. And when you are living in the midst of the stress caused by poverty, it is much more of a challenge to make healthy choices and get access to adequate healthcare. High housing costs can also prevent families from meeting their basic needs, such as energy bills or buying enough and healthy food, which in turn worsens ill health.

Lastly, there is also an important connection between mental health and debt, such as rent arrears. Shelter’s 2017 nationwide survey found that 1 in 5 adults have suffered mental health issues (depression, anxiety, stress, sleeping problems) in the last 5 years due to housing problems, many of whom sought support from local GPs. In this study, the most frequently cited reason for mental ill health was lack of affordability.

Prioritising a healthy home

For Rujia, it was immediately clear that to support Kerri back into to work that was not only suitable for her time and capacity as a mother and build her aspirations, but that the damp and mould in her home were cleaned up as a matter of urgency. Rujia raised the issue with Kerri’s landlord, Southern Housing Group, advocating for repairs to be taken out in the flat. The family have been moved into temporary accommodation while the work takes place. She made sure that Kerri and her children were all registered with the local GP. For Kerri, it was the first step in making sure that her and her family’s health and wellbeing was a priority.

Our housing support

At Kineara, all our support services include housing support. We offer advice, guidance, and advocacy for all families and individuals we work with on matters of housing, including rent arrears, eviction threats, conditions in the home and more. We know that for anyone to lead a happy, healthy life, having a secure home to rest your head and spend time with family and loved ones, it is the most important thing.

To find out more about our housing support, contact us or read more about how we have supported others.

Posted by kineara in Community, Employment, 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