Sunday, 02 August 2015

Plus Dane to use bar staff and hairdressers to warn tenants over bedroom tax

Pub staff to give benefit advice

Hairdressers, pub staff and faith leaders could be trained to give welfare advice under plans being drawn up by a housing association.

Plus Dane, which owns 18,000 homes across Merseyside and Cheshire, is looking at ways to ensure tenants know about benefit changes which come into effect next April.

The association estimates that 3,000 of its households will be affected by the ‘bedroom tax’, under which social tenants with spare rooms will be docked £14 of benefit a week on average.

Plus Dane believes tenants do not necessarily take notice of leaflets pushed through doors, but do listen to ‘community advocates’ giving informal advice in a relaxed setting.

Under the scheme, dubbed ‘hair, prayer and beer’ by chief executive Ken Perry, Plus Dane would work with employers and faith groups to train their staff on welfare changes.

A spokesperson said: ‘We want to reach the customers who will bear the brunt of the changes and we are trying to be more innovative.’

She cited Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, which last year recruited hairdressers to raise awareness of heart disease, as an example of another organisation which had disseminated information in this way.

The details of the Plus Dane scheme have yet to be finalised, however the organisation hopes to be able to run a pilot in the new year.

The association will look at whether financial incentives should be offered to encourage employers and their staff to take part in the scheme.

Sam Lister, policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said if the messages are simple the scheme could work.

But he warned: ‘The trouble is if it [the information] is not targeted it could put some people in a panic who might not be affected.’

Plus Dane is also next month sending out 600 of its 850 staff to knock on doors to inform tenants affected by the bedroom tax.

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