What is the best way to make a difference right now? If you’re anything like the members of the team at Your Own Place CIC, it can at times feel all but impossible to support people whose budgets simply don’t add up. Citizens Advice tells us that 47% of people they see are in negative budget (i.e. no matter what they do, it doesn’t add up). 85% of social landlords are seeing an increase in rent arrears.
For those of us working with tenants and in communities this takes its toll and I keep saying to the team that we can’t expect to have all the answers. Should we be taking a preventative or reactive approach? Should we be signposting or hand holding? Should landlords be alleviating the worst of rent increases or supporting tenants into work with additional schemes such as apprenticeships?
At Your Own Place it can look like we simply run more of the same financial inclusion interventions that many landlords also provide under the banner of ‘tenancy sustainment teams’, ‘money advice’ or ‘tenancy support’. We don’t. We do indeed run workshops and 1-2-1 support sessions covering everything from budgeting, debt and benefits, but we also include housing options, roles and responsibilities as well as managing wellbeing and isolation as vital to the bigger picture. It’s also bespoke, face to face and fun!
Our offer, ten years in the iteration, is proudly not advice or reactive, whilst responding empathically to people in crisis. We have learnt, working with tenants with ages ranging from 18-92, that people, especially when brought together, have a wealth of knowledge already that benefits from being heard. We don’t deny that when in crisis people need a crisis service and a particular expert at getting a problem fixed.
This is not what we do at Your Own Place. At Your Own Place we stick with targeted prevention and complement the other services. This means we work with those facing the most risk of losing their tenancy and facilitate groups for the benefit of all (to learn from each other) and ask lots of open questions. Using a coaching, asset-based, restorative and fun (yes, fun) range of techniques, we find out what has worked for people before, as a means of THEM finding the right solution for THEM. None of this stops us covering core debt, budgeting, savings or any other content or signposting to another service when advice is needed. Rather than delivering life skills, for the purposes of solely tenancy sustainment, our approach sees us deliver skills for life that can be utilised across and throughout life’s challenges.
These approaches and their impact on tenant’s lives and livelihoods are what I’ll be talking about at CIH Southwest on 27th September.