“We do everything we can to keep people in their homes”

Every penny counts…

In the last year alone, our Income Team dealt with over 1500 cases involving our customers. They were also responsible in generating over £2.6m in extra income for our customers.

Malcolm Roberts is one of the officers who deals with difficult cases on a daily basis. Here he talks about his role in helping our customers, as well as some of the frustrations he comes across.

“I take on cases when arrears hit the £300 mark. We contact customers in a number of ways – it can be over the phone, email, in person, sending texts or using WhatsApp. We also take calls in the evenings and on weekends if needed – we make a real effort to fit in with what our customers have going on in their lives. We can also see them at local Job Centres or here at Gadbrook.

“The phones never stop. Sometimes these calls can be really in depth – a lot of our customers have issues going on in their lives – they might have lost their job and others have struggles with alcohol and drugs. We have seen a huge increase in people who are struggling with their mental health. That’s why we try to work closely with other teams across the Trust, as well as outside organisations to make sure our customers receive the right support.

“My job is about helping people. It’s about trying to find out why people have stopped paying their rent and look at how we can help them get on top of things.

“Each case is different. The majority go well – we find out what’s going on in their life and we make arrangements so they can start tackling their arrears. We always try and find a figure that's fair. We don’t set up our customers up to fail - the payment plans we put in place can start from as little as a £4 a week.

“Some people have issues with debts and benefits so we always point them in the direction of the Money Matters team. If they engage and start making progress, we can hold back from taking further action for the time being.

“Eviction is always the last resort, and we do everything we can to keep people in their homes. My biggest frustration is when our customers don’t engage with us – sometimes I can make 8 or 9 visits on a patch and no one will answer the door. They will not respond to our calls or texts and their arrears keep mounting up. It’s only when they are in court or facing eviction that things begin to sink in.

“Once we take action, most people do engage with us. You often see the same faces over and over again but we never give up on people. Even when things go as far as court, we will always try to find a solution.

“It’s rewarding when you make a breakthrough, especially when you see a customer’s arrears going down.

“Our workloads are increasing and everyone has difficult cases. I know a few people in the team have sleepless nights when they are dealing with particular challenging cases. The good thing about our team is that no-one is afraid to ask for help – we can unload and talk to each other.”

If you are worried about paying your rent and need advice and support… don’t bury your head in the sand.

Get in touch with our Income Team on 01606 813535 or email rentfirst@wvht.co.uk

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