1. Dennis CroweAN ELDERLY couple from north Northumberland can enjoy their retirement in peace after receiving financial advice from their landlord which has saved them hundreds of pounds each year and boosted their income.

Dennis and Margaret Crowe live in an Isos bungalow in a village close to the Scottish border.

The couple were struggling to afford their household bills, and sought advice from Isos financial inclusion officer Phil Soden to see if he could help.

Phil found that the Crowes’ energy bills were unusually high for a couple living in a bungalow, and found they were on the wrong tariff.

Phil also helped Mr Crowe to apply for Attendance Allowance, a benefit for older people with a health problem, who are finding life difficult around the house, with looking after themselves.

Finally, Phil identified that Mr Crowe, as a former member of the armed forces, would qualify for a grant from the armed forces charity, the SSAFA.

The grant enabled Mr Crowe to pay off the debt he had taken on to pay for a special armchair, which he had bought to help Margaret, who has problems with her mobility.

Phil said: “When I first went to speak to the Crowes, I think it’s fair to say Dennis was ignoring his own problems, because he was concentrating so much on his wife, making sure she was comfortable.

“He had got into some debt, due to the special chair he bought for Margaret, which cost £2,000. It was something she needed, but he could not pay for it.

“He was also having problems with his energy – paying £150 per month, which seemed a lot for two people. And then I found he was on the wrong tariff for his energy.

“Instead of having a cheap night time rate, he had two standard rates. We called the energy company – not as simple as we’d hoped, but we got it resolved.

“I also called SSAFA, the charity for ex-armed forces personnel, and they agreed to take on the debt for the chair, to pay that off.”

The long term solution for the Crowes’ finances was to apply for Attendance Allowance

Phil said: “We got £55 of Attendance Allowance for Mr Crowe, that led to some Pension Credit, and some backdated money too.

“We sorted out his energy debts so he’s now paying £97 per month for all the power they use, instead of £150.”

The support Phil provided to help the Crowes is just one example of the work the Isos financial inclusion team does to help residents across the North East.

In 2015/16 the eight team members generated a total of £2.6m extra income for Isos residents through benefit entitlements, and reducing their energy bills.

Phil added: “We try to visit anybody who needs help. Dennis told me he would never have filled in the Attendance Allowance form on this own.

“For me to be able to come out and see him, and fill in the form while we were there, that made a big difference to him.”

Mr Crowe: “All I had to do was sign my name – financially there was an improvement straight away. I found Phil such a good person to know.”

Mr Crowe can now relax and enjoy his beautifully located home, knowing that his finances are under control, with a steady income to take care of his wife.

He added: “I have to see that Margaret gets the best out of life that she possibly can.”

The financial inclusion team at Isos can be contacted on the main customer service telephone line, 0300 300 1505, by email on benefitsandmoney@isoshousing.co.uk or through the website www.isoshousing.co.uk and click on ‘Support’.