Money Support Sucess - Sarah's Story
Vicky Salter has worked for Town and Country Housing Group as a Money Support Officer for West Kent for the past 5 years. Previously she was Income Co-ordinator for Town and Country’s Privately rented and shared ownership properties.
If your child is leaving education, you could see big changes to your income. Sarah* discovered this when her son finished college and got a job. Sarah was referred to our Money Support Team when her Housing Benefit was suspended. Vicky Salter, Money Support Officer goes on to explain:
"A referral for Sarah had been made to me when her Income Manager had been informed that the Housing Benefit had been suspended. Having previously supported Sarah on another issue, I was already aware of the family’s history including her depression and problems with alcohol and I understood that she found it hard to engage with external agencies.
"I went to meet with Sarah to find out what had changed and to see what support I could offer. She told me her son, Brad*, had recently left college, which had led to a change to her benefits.
"When Brad was in full-time education, Sarah had been receiving Child Benefit, Child Tax Credits, Employment Support Allowance.
"She was also getting help with her rent and Council Tax. Sarah had a spare bedroom so had been paying a shortfall in her rent as the Council had been taking an under-occupancy deduction from her Housing Benefit. She could have downsized but made a decision to stay due to her illness and Brad being close to college.
"Sarah was unaware that she should have notified DWP and her local Council Authority that Brad was no longer in education. The first Sarah knew of this was when her Benefits were stopped and her rent account was in arrears. Sarah was also no longer receiving a single person's discount on her Council Tax as Brad was now classed as an adult.
"I helped Sarah to get her Housing Benefit reinstated but, as she had not provided evidence of Brad’s wages, the council had applied the maximum non-dependant deduction of £94.50 to her Housing Benefit. This coupled with the under-occupancy deduction meant she was only receiving £22 a week towards her rent of £151.00.
"Sarah hadn’t realised that her son working would have an impact on her Housing Benefit. I explained that the amount Brad earned would affect the amount deducted from her award, and he would be expected to pay the shortfall out of his salary. Brad then provided three months worth of payslips and an employment contract to the Council. I told Brad he would need to notify the Council should his wages change.
"Although Sarah felt guilty expecting her son to contribute, they both understood that if he didn’t, Sarah wouldn’t be able to afford the rent on the house. Brad also agreed to pay towards the other household bills and Council Tax.
"Now that Brad was no longer at the local college, they agreed this would be a good time to downsize. Unfortunately however, there was an outstanding balance on her rent account preventing them from moving. With no other options, we completed an application for a Discretionary Housing Payment. I wrote a supporting letter and a one off payment was approved and used to clear the arrears. This enabled them to start looking for a more suitable property."
If you think you or someone you know could be affected by Sarah’s story, read more about what to expect when you child leaves education and the impact on your income.
*name changed to protect identity