Hayley Keen

Hayley Keen has worked for Town and Country Housing Group as a Money Support Officer for East and North Kent for the past three years. Previously she worked as a floating support working for approx. 10 years where she worked in the community helping individuals to maintain their tenancies, avoiding eviction.

Jasmine* had been a full-time carer to her husband up until he died. Not originally from the UK with limited English, she was unaware of her benefits entitlement. Hayley from our money support team stepped in to help:

Jasmine and her husband had been living in one of our properties since 2010. As they had always received full housing benefit, the couple had never been in rent arrears.

Jasmine moved to the UK around 20 years ago. With little English, she enrolled herself on to an English course but was forced to give this up when her husband became ill. Relying heavily on Jasmine, she became her husband’s full-time carer. Even during hospital stays, Jasmine would still attend to his personal care.

When her husband died earlier this year Jasmine was left with very little support from family or friends. Struggling to understand the welfare benefit system and with no one to turn to, Jasmine was unaware that her housing benefit had been suspended and her rent account was falling into arrears.

It wasn’t until we phoned Jasmine to speak to her about her account that she informed us of her husband’s death. Realising that she was vulnerable, she was referred to myself for support. I phoned her and arranged to meet.

At the home visit, I established that Jasmine’s carers allowance had stopped eight-weeks after her husbands death and she was struggling to survive on only £25 per week Bereavement Allowance.

I really empathised with the situation this lady had found herself in. Due to her limited English, her husband had always dealt with all paperwork including their benefits. Following his death not only was she grieving but she was isolated with no support.

Despite the language barrier, with a little bit of patience and time, I was able to help Jasmine to make a Job Seekers Allowance claim online, explaining each step of the application. I left written instruction for her to be able to progress her claim. We discussed the obligations which she would need to fulfil.

While there, we discussed the benefits of working and the positive effect this would have on her emotional wellbeing, finances, social and language skills. I gave advice on claiming in-work benefits. We also spoke about enrolling back on to an English course.

Before I left, I gave her my contact details, and reassured her that I was available if she needed further help or advice.

Her Housing Benefit has now be reinstated, her account is back in credit and her home is no longer at risk. She is currently receiving Job Seekers Allowance and is actively seeking work. She has enrolled on to an English Course and is feeling more confident about her future.

*name changed to protect identity