Extraordinary £1million Total for Renters in Difficulty

Citizens Advice East Berkshire (CAEB) and Silva Homes celebrate a landmark figure in debt write-offs since the project began in 2016.

Berkshire, UK (23 April 2024) – CAEB and Silva Homes have been working together to help Silva Homes customers tackle debt issues. The remarkable sum of £1million means so much more than the money in terms of the relief from stress and financial hardship to customers.

The partnership was formed in 2016 and is wholly funded by Silva Homes, the not-for-profit housing association, which is now part of the Abri group, to help Silva Homes’ customers.

Ray Parsons, worked in IT for different companies including British Airways and Carnival Cruise Lines before becoming Silva Homes Project Caseworker for CAEB.

He said: I think what stood me in good stead for this role was not so much the technical challenges of IT projects, but the people management and influence required. Making changes to systems has its technical challenges but bringing people along and getting buy in and acceptance is where success lies. The skills I learnt doing that have been very similar to the skills needed to understand client’s needs and facilitate solutions to those needs.

He explained: “It is a big landmark, I have been tracking the amount from the start. Silva Homes wanted to try to avoid taking possession action and then get improvement on their rent arrears, that was their goal, and it has been largely successful.”

Referrals come from the tenancy sustainment officers whose role is centred around helping customers retain their tenancy. Ray describes it as a collaborative relationship.

The work has included referrals and other aspects, but the debt write-off figure relates to 63 clients whom Ray has helped get debts written off for – the total of those now exceeds £1m.

“Whilst the debt write-off is a measurable outcome, perhaps the real benefits to those customers is the reduction in risk of losing their homes and the consequent reduction in distress caused.”

Tom Mason, Lead Customer Relations Partner at Silva Homes, said: “When we set up this partnership back in 2016 we did so with the aims of giving our customers fast-track access to the CAB and specialist debt advice. More often than not, having rent arrears is the sign of people struggling with other debts. We could help customers tackle their rent arrears but it made little sense to do this in isolation if they were struggling with other areas of their finances. At the time the background issues around welfare reform meant it made absolute sense to partner with the CAB who offer impartial independent debt advice.  This is a sobering milestone to have achieved but it shows that it was the right thing to do for our customers. It’s been great to work with Ray and see the impact that his work has had on our customers lives and an upshot of that has been a positive effect on rent arrears. We look forward to continuing this relationship and the positive impact it has made on customers’ lives.”

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