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Pioneering resident service for older people helps improve incomes by £8.2m in last five years

8 November 2017

Be Wise is 5 Clare & Be Wise team

It was a double celebration at Hanover Housing Association this week as its free financial rights and energy switching service for residents unveiled its latest yearly figures and also cut the cake to mark its fifth year of operation.

Launched in the autumn of 2012, the organisation’s Be Wise services have provided practical assistance to over 2,500 older people living in the organisation’s retirement and extra care estates across England. The team’s efforts have helped residents to maximise their incomes to the tune of an impressive £8.2 million over the course of the last five years.

To do this, the specialist team provides free and confidential advice on how best to save money on energy bills, helps secure essential adaptations to households and provides information on tailor-made contents insurance for Hanover residents.

Going from strength to strength since its inception, this value added service is driving vast savings and generating additional income for Hanover residents. In the 2016/17 financial year alone, as part of the organisation’s Be Wise Challenge, it delivered some £1.7 million to 630 residents. This exceeded the target of the challenge, which is to improve residents’ finances by at least £1.5 million annually.

In one case, the Financial Rights team managed to increase entitlement by £110 per week for a couple living in Yorkshire, whilst in another case Hanover’s Energy Advisor identified a transposed meter and managed to help reclaim £1,800 for a resident.

To celebrate its fifth anniversary, the Be Wise team returned to an estate where it had held one of its very first sessions, Runnymede Court in Luton, Bedfordshire. The sessions – of which almost 250 have been hosted so far - see the team offering fully confidential financial checks, along with the opportunity to discuss available entitlements. The organisation’s in-house energy expert also helps residents to get the best deal from their energy supplier, offers assistance with any supplier switching, and investigates issues such as transposed meters.

Dame Clare Tickell, Chief Executive of Hanover, said: ‘To be able to help residents to the tune of an incredible £8.2 million in entitlements that they would not otherwise have got in just five years is a fantastic achievement, especially coming at a time when many older people are facing greater hardship and poverty because of prices rising well above inflation.  

‘We know from speaking with residents that many often struggle on very little income and at times can’t afford even the most basic of necessities. Many also feel inhibited about claiming benefits and are uncomfortable sharing their personal information with external agencies. Because of this reluctance, we have worked hard to explain that there is financial and in-kind support available to them as entitlements and the Be Wise team is helping make sure they are receiving the right type of advice about what is available to them.

‘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, putting 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.’

According to the charity Independent Age, nearly one million people aged over 75 live in poverty and need more help. Several studies and reports, including those by the likes of Age UK, document the daily struggles of older people coping with their day to day living whilst having limited access to funds. Increasing pensioner income is still the most effective way of keeping older people out of poverty, so the work that Be Wise does continues to be a key way of giving residents better access to goods, services and experiences they would not otherwise have been able to benefit from.

The benefits system in the UK is complicated and ongoing reforms make it even more so, especially for older people. This is compounded by the fact that many over 55s do not think that they are entitled to extra help or do not want the stigma of applying for such things as benefits, even if this can help adapt their home to allow them to stay in it longer and reduce pressure on the NHS.