Funds to aid social housing tenants
A £31.7 million drive to help prevent the "most vulnerable" people living in social housing across England spiralling into debt has been announced by the Big Lottery Fund.
The 37 projects to benefit from the funding will help an estimated 150,000 tenants to become more financially aware, which could give them better access to products such as a basic bank account, said the fund.
Concerns have been raised that those without access to basic financial products are paying a "poverty premium" and turning to loan sharks or high-interest payday lenders, while not having a bank account can cause problems in receiving wages from an employer.
Around one in 10 people on the lowest incomes does not have access to a bank account that enables direct payments, compared with just 3% of people generally.
The drive is being backed by Martin Lewis, founder of consumer help website MoneySavingExpert.com, as well as the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, and charity Citizens Advice.
Mr Lewis said: "Disgracefully it costs more to be poor. The poverty premium means, from household goods to energy bills, things are more expensive for those with little cash as they need to borrow to buy or don't get the direct debit discounts others take for granted."
He said of the initiative: "Hopefully it will reduce the risk of desperation driving people into relying on costly payday loans or even loan sharks."
Coast and Country Housing will receive £799,729 to support first-time social housing tenants in the borough of Redcar and Cleveland as they prepare for taking on a tenancy. Other projects set to benefit include Livin Housing, which has been awarded £841,415 to help deliver a scheme expected to reach more than 20,000 young and first-time social housing tenants across County Durham.
Nat Sloane, Big Lottery Fund England chairman, said: "Recent changes in legislation, such as the benefits cap and the introduction of Universal Credit - whereby benefits payments go to the head of the household rather than directly to the landlord - mean there is even more pressure on tenants to take responsibility for managing their finances.
"This means today's investment could not come at a more imperative time. It will help ease the pressure on individuals as well as freeing up valuable resources within our health and social services."