Benefits experts at one of the north east’s largest landlords are urging tenants to check that their details are up to date after identifying more than £3m of unclaimed welfare benefits and tax credits in just 12 months.

 

Welfare Benefits Advisors at County Durham Housing Group are reminding tenants of the importance of keeping their personal details up to date and making sure they notify the relevant authorities about changes in their circumstances. The team have uncovered dozens of cases where tenants were seriously struggling to make ends meet as a direct result of old or incomplete information in their benefits claims.

In one case, a tenant with severe health issues had claimed over £10,000 less than she was entitled to before intervention from the County Durham Housing Group team. In total the team found £3,313, 392.63 in underpaid benefits from April 2016 to April 2017.

Lynda Monaghan, Welfare Benefits Officer at County Durham Housing Group, said: “In many cases we’re finding vulnerable people in real hardship, essentially because they don’t fully understand the complexities of the benefits system. We’ve found people who are suffering from huge anxiety problems, struggling to pay their rent and getting into debt when they’re entitled to benefits that could prevent such hardship.

“A large proportion of the people we speak to have made, or have been the subject of, simple mistakes when they’ve been injured, made unemployed, retired or changed their family circumstances. But these mistakes have been having a major impact on people’s lives. It costs nothing to get advice and it could make the difference between really struggling day to day and getting by.”

New changes to the benefits system are also catching people out according to Lynda, with spare room subsidy and discretionary housing payments queries being high on the list of enquiries.

A special drop in event where tenants will be able to speak face to face with welfare benefits experts will be taking place at East Durham Homes Customer Service Centre on Yoden Way in the Castle Dene shopping centre, Peterlee on Thursday, 1 June. The session will run from 2pm to 4pm with specialists on hand throughout to answer any queries.

In another case, a disabled tenant had not claimed over £6,000 of enhanced personal independence payments that he was entitled to, following changes to the disability living allowance.

“We know that some people don’t like talking about benefits, but our team are here to offer good advice to help those who genuinely need it. We’re not here to catch people out.” Lynda added.

County Durham Housing Group is one of the region’s largest landlords with more than 18,000 properties. The group includes Dale & Valley Homes, Durham City Homes and East Durham Homes. More information on benefits advice for tenants is available on the group’s website, www.countydurhamhousinggroup.co.uk or by calling 0800 083 0333 for Dale & Valley Homes tenants, 0800 068 0013 for Durham City Homes tenants and 0800 032 0835 for East Durham Homes tenants.