Sunday, 21 December 2014

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.

Readers' comments (23)

  • Because this paints a nice picture of how benefit claimants spend their time. I can imagine it now....

    "That's be two pints of stellar, a small white wine for the wife and can you help me fill out this housing benefit application?"

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  • Is this an article from the Daily Mash???

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  • Mike Batt

    Maybe they could get the staff at Wonga and Brighthouse involved as well?

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  • Christopher Dale

    Does this mean housing officers will now also be trained to give a short back and sides; serve pints and preside over religious ceremonies?

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  • presume this a spoof article. they forgot to mention the bookies and perhaps dealers could make wraps up in benefit leaflets so their customers could get clued up while getting off their heads

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  • Christopher Dale

    Perhaps the hairdressers would be well placed to advise on the benefit reforms - after all, they're used to dealing with cuts! Boom boom. I'm here all week.

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  • I can see that the idea of getting benefits advice over a pint (or ten) will appeal to many of my clients rather more than a visit to the Job Centre, but there is one problem: will they be in a fit state to remember it afterwards?!

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  • not such a bad thing perhaps - they would have to back and ask again, could put advice on beer mats though along with several of IF's best jokes. if that doesnt encourage them to find a job nowt will

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  • sorry for southern luvvies nowt = i am persuaded nothing will

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  • Chris

    This chimes well with the latest series of government adverts for 'we are a really nice caring government who even look to make life easy for the feckless undeserving poor'.

    You may have seen the adds where the unemployed are gathered around the pub table getting the rounds in whilst bemoaning their plight and lack of money, when the smart alec character asks them 'what doe MA say', and they all look at him as if he's a loon (a well cast actor for the part I must observe), enabling him to explain the virtues of the Money Advice Service.

    People who are in denial about the government's demonisation campaign will have noted the help on offer but would have missed the subtle reinforcement of propaganda against those claiming benefits.

    That said, why is the landlord not considering promoting advice through the employers of these tenants, by contacting their low-wage paying taxpayer subsidised employers and getting them to put benefit advice in with thier rather small 'pay packets'? Equally, they could get the cut-price food shops and second hand outlets to promote benefit advice. And an essential outlet would be at the school gate where so many parents attend each day before heading off to earn the minimum wage or hit the internet in search of a job.

    Cut the stereotypes! - they just can't help reinforcing the government's message can they.

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