The last day of October saw Hanover's CEO, staff members and residents coming together at Runnymede Court in Luton for a party.
Rather than Halloween, the celebration was for five years of the Be Wise service! The Luton estate was especially pertinent due to it being the venue for one of the very first Be Wise sessions in 2012. Since its launch, the free service has helped residents maximise their incomes to the tune of £8.2m by providing advice on money, insurance and energy-related matters.
Hanover's CEO Dame Clare Tickell said: ‘To be able to help residents to gain such an incredible amount in entitlements in just five years is a fantastic achievement, especially coming at a time when many older people are facing greater hardship because of prices rising well above inflation.
‘That is why we launched our Be Wise service - it’s a wonderful example of what housing associations can do to be more than just providers of bricks and mortar. We put residents’ wellbeing at the heart of what we do, helping them to maximise their income, access essential benefits and maintain their independence for as long as possible.’
To date, the Be Wise team have helped over 2,300 residents to generate additional income and savings in a number of ways:
- Energy Wise users saved an average of £130 per person
- Money Wise has helped 850 people gain an average of £4,120 per year
- Over 220 Be Wise events have been held nationally since 2012
The case studies below highlight just how much the Be Wise service has helped Hanover residents over the last five years.
A welcome surprise
Mr and Mrs B met the Money Wise Financial Rights team at the very first Be Wise event in September 2012, where they were surprised to learn that they were entitled to a small amount of housing and council tax benefit. Mrs B was also advised to apply for attendance allowance and was eventually awarded the high rate. This also led to an increase in the couple’s other benefits.
When Mrs B sadly passed away in 2016, her husband checked with the Money Wise team on how this would affect his benefits entitlement following the removal of his carers’ allowance. With their help, Mr B now receives attendance allowance, housing and council tax benefits in his own right.
Second time lucky
Hanover resident Julie asked for the Money Wise team’s support in making a new application for disability benefit, having previously been declined.
With their help to complete the lengthy form, Julie was awarded high rate attendance allowance, which also increased her entitlement to other means tested benefits.
Delighted Julie said: ‘I needed help to complete the disability forms, which seemed quite daunting. The team’s expertise in applications made the difference between the benefit being awarded and being refused. Now I no longer have to worry about credit on the prepayment electricity meter running out, or having to choose between essential food items. I’ve even been able to get away for a short break with my grandchildren!’
Peace of mind for a savvy couple
Following an event on their estate last year, one couple really made the most of the range of Be Wise services on offer. With the Money Wise team’s assistance to complete their attendance allowance applications, they each now receive the high rate and enjoy an extra £109.50 per week income, plus a backdated payment of £1,300.
Switching to a different deal with their energy provider through Energy Wise lowered their monthly payments and led to a credit of £97.50. They’ve since saved even more by twice moving to different tariffs! They were also signposted to a much better and cheaper contents policy via Insurance Wise.
As a result of all these savings, the pair can now afford to pay for transport for hospital visits, help with cleaning and ironing, and a holiday abroad. The happy couple commented: ‘The Be Wise service has helped give us back some independence and peace of mind.’
A change for the better
Hanover resident Barbara approached the Be Wise team for information on welfare benefits and energy. To her surprise she was advised to apply for attendance allowance, which she subsequently received, along with pension credit.
Barbara says: ‘The help I received from Hanover changed things for me. As I’ve got older, my physical and mental health have deteriorated. Having these benefits in place has helped to relieve my anxiety and make me feel more secure. I don’t need to worry about getting to places as I can pay for transport.
'I think people should know that Hanover offers this service, because it can change your life. The basic state pension enables you to live, but nothing more. All my life, I have put up a façade and pretended to be well. I now have the means to address some of my health issues and can afford to pay for one-to-one counselling, which is unavailable on the NHS.’
Independent studies show that nearly one million people aged over 75 live in poverty and struggle to cope with basic living costs. The UK benefits system is increasingly complicated, plus many older people either think they are not entitled to help or do not want the stigma of applying. The Be Wise service offers a way for residents to access goods and services that they would possibly not have otherwise used.
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