North Warwickshire and Nuneaton & Bedworth borough councils: Step into Your Tenancy
The councils of northern Warwickshire appreciate the fact that it can be hard for someone moving into their first, or new home. The Northern Warwickshire Financial Inclusion Partnership therefore developed the ‘Step into Your Tenancy’ step-by-step guide.
This can be used by anyone going into a new property, or moving to another property, so that they can get themselves financially set up with their bills and other property concerns from day one.
The guide itself was developed by the North Warwickshire Borough Council Financial Inclusion team and supported and checked by North Warwickshire Citizens Advice. It will help people to stay on track and prevent arrears and debt accruing from an early stage. The guide also provides helpful information regarding the consequences of non-payment of some bills, as well as top-tips and links to encourage people to think out their ‘needs’ rather than their ‘wants’, so that they can make better and more informed choices.
It is designed to be an interactive guide and is accompanied by a ‘to do checklist’ that can be used to tick off residents’ actions – to help keep track of any important dates and notes, which may help to alleviate some financial stress that people often feel. This can be promoted to individuals to follow on their own, or even better, for officers and advisers to have available in their toolkit to work through with customers. It gives the council, and their commissioned services, a consistent approach to advice when working with customers.
The ‘Step into your Tenancy’ guide is interactive with hyperlinks to direct the user to websites needed to find out information, register for services, set up all bills standing order or direct debit payments in relation to their priority and non-priority expenses. The links to the guides are available on the respective council websites.
The guide was initially ‘piloted’ in Nuneaton & Bedworth, with the council’s Financial Inclusion Support Officers in partnership with Warwickshire County Council’s Family Information Service, who were working and supporting families in temporary accommodation. In North Warwickshire the guide was also piloted by the council’s housing team working to support the residents in their ‘male’ hostel.
Step into YOUR Tenancy has already proved a great tool to help everyone understand their responsibilities, the difference between priority and non-priority debts, and the consequences of non-payment. It helped prepare them for the financial challenge of managing a home, to ensure a successful, stress free and sustainable residency without accruing arrears from day one.
Step into YOUR Tenancy has had some very positive feedback from users. It has enabled officers to take a consistent approach with regard to advice, and to avoid using search engines to find out information for their clients. Advisers are now more confident in giving appropriate advice and helping clients to register for bills and services and setting up direct debits alongside essential steps to maintaining a tenancy.
The guide has now been rolled out, and is widely available online, for all residents across Northern Warwickshire to access and use for themselves. However, it is a useful tool kit for all of internal council teams, such as housing, and financial inclusion partners who work closely with residents in supporting them into new housing.