Hayley Keen

Hayley Keen has worked for Town & 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 worker for approx. 10 years where she worked in the community helping individuals to maintain their tenancies, avoiding eviction.

*Sarah was referred to the Money Support Team due to financial difficulty as a result of the under-occupancy** charge taken from her housing benefit. Money Support Officer Hayley met with Sarah to see how she could help.

‘I met with Sarah initially to see if we could apply for a discretionary housing payment to cover the shortfall on her rent. However, following a review of her existing welfare claim, I felt that Sarah should in fact be exempt from the under-occupancy charge due to her poor health.

I asked Sarah to complete an “authority to act” form so I could deal with this on her behalf. I asked the local authority to reconsider their decision to deduct an under-occupancy charge. I was confused when I heard that the decision had not been changed. As I genuinely felt that Sarah did have an entitlement to full housing benefit, I wanted to help Sarah challenge their decision.

I approached an external specialist-housing advisor who was able to provide me with invaluable advice. I then returned to the local authority with a full breakdown of Sarah’s medical history and argued the need for the second bedroom. It was following this review that we were successful in securing a full housing benefit award for Sarah. The claim was backdated to the date of my original request.

Spending time with Sarah, I learnt more about her health conditions and the impact they were having on her day-to-day life. She lived in a second floor flat and due to her poor mobility found it difficult to go out. She was waiting for surgery, but unless she was moved to a ground floor flat the surgery wouldn’t take place. On knowing this, I then spoke to my Manager and a decision was made to offer her a move to a suitable property as soon as one became available. This can sometimes take months, but fortunately for Sarah a property did become available and we managed to get her moved quickly. Once moved in, I visited Sarah in her new home and helped her to notify all relevant agencies of her change of circumstances.

Sarah is now waiting for a date for her operation. I am continuing to work with Sarah, as I believe she may be entitled to a further back payment of housing benefit going back to when the under-occupancy charge was first put in place. This was and still is a very complex case and I will work with Sarah until I feel confident that she no longer needs my support.’

*Name changed to protect identity.
**The under-occupancy charge (sometimes referred to as “the bedroom tax”) is a cut in housing benefit if you are of working age, live in a council or housing association home and are classed as having a spare bedroom.