New Members Introduced
Advice NI is delighted to welcome two new members to the independent advice network:
- Choice Housing Ltd
- North West Lifelong Learning
New Member Spotlight – Choice Housing
Advice NI are delighted to welcome Choice Housing Ltd as an Advice NI member. Choice is one of the largest providers of social housing in Northern Ireland. More than 10,000 customers have trusted them to provide high quality homes across Northern Ireland. With the launch of their new advice service in January 2019, Choice have been proactive in the work they do with their tenants and housing officers to identify trends and anomalies where tenants might need additional support. From complex needs to general advice, Choice are ensuring that the support is there.
Choice have led preventative work with promotional adverts on their own social media. These campaigns are to identify and target those who are affected by mitigations and to certify that the right information is relayed to their tenants and in turn any potential change could impact them.
Choice’s focus on the benefit cap and bedroom tax is essential as they have large properties with large families. Choice advisers also check with families for exemptions to the bedroom tax to ensure it applies, such as overnight carers, or children with disabilities who are unable to share a room.
At the beginning of every tenancy Choice now provide a benefit health check for tenants. They aim to ensure tenants are receiving their full entitlement but also hope to avoid unnecessary arrears if possible. With the Universal Credit waiting period assistance can be required with budgeting and managing money. Where natural migration is concerned Choice assist their tenants with Universal Credit claims to create emails, submit claims and help management of their overall circumstances. Other areas of focus for Choice Housing is the reinstatement of housing benefit for tenants to try to avoid a circumstance of natural migration to Universal Credit.
Choice Housing can help identify their clients’ full entitlement and the support they can get, such as grants or charities that can offer support to people with them having to move home. Every household is treated with a holistic approach to ensure a wraparound service for everyone involved.
The Choice Saving Scheme aims to change the psychology of financial capability by deterring tenants from using high interest rate products such as door to door or payday loans, or even loan sharks. The saving scheme is linked with Credit Unions and Choice Housing will pay initial set up fees and will provide a bonus for those who have developed a regular saving pattern. This incentive is to try to provide better options for those who obtain credit, instead of having to turn to high-interest loans.
Choice Housing aim to keep every tenant stable and ensure they have access to all that is available to them.
New Member Spotlight – North West Lifelong Learning
North West Lifelong Learning Ltd is a charitable organisation founded in 2003. NWLL is an established community education organisation and along with Ceres Europe (a community educational co-operative) have been the foremost group organisation supporting new and emerging community activities in Ballykelly and the surrounding rural areas.
The NWLL Advice Centre is fully inclusive of the local community and groups, of all ages, genders and community backgrounds. The advice centre will benefit all the local community within Ballykelly and the Limavady rural area.
This is a step to build better community cohesion and capacity and will be the building blocks for progress. In particular NWLL are keen to design informative sessions for everyone from teenagers and young people, right up to our oldest inhabitant. Recently, NWLL have also been a Fareshare centre for food distribution to members.
What does North West Lifelong Learning do?
The North West Lifelong Learning Advice Centre provides advice, support and training. NWLL help the unemployed gain necessary skills to access work, including supported work placements with local businesses. Through the centre people can access free advice and educational guidance through social media and electronic devices. There are opportunities to complete CVs, business plans, job application forms, interview skills and work placements.
NWLL provide a network of mutual support and encouragement amongst its beneficiaries. This in turn will provide opportunities for volunteering, employment and life skills. The charity’s beneficiaries are all people aiming to find employment, volunteer status or personal life skills enhancement.
NWLL promote, develop and co-ordinate the provision of accessible, quality training and pre-vocational training for the beneficiaries. The organisation also sources free training and qualifications for work related activities.
NWLL provide wider access to ICT training, including open learning methods, thereby improving the ICT competency and the employability of the beneficiaries; the direct benefits flowing from this purpose include access to free training online and in person using computers and other ICT equipment across different employment sectors. These benefits can be demonstrated by using electronic media to complete free courses online and to maintain contact with North West Lifelong Learning and volunteer tutors, including access to a free and open exam centre for ICT exams.
North West Lifelong Learning offer initial support for trade testing for any unemployed beneficiary wishing to become self employed by use of a virtual office or an actual small office space in Rascahan House.