FROM THE FRONTLINE: SUPPORTING RESIDENT FINANCES AND EMPLOYMENT
Marika White is a member of our frontline team at Caritas Anchor House, as our Rent and Housing Management Specialist. She leads on our work supporting residents in employment and those in receipt of benefits to effectively manage their finances. This week, Marika shares what impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on residents in this area.
When coronavirus began to sweep across the world, like many others, we didn’t know what the impact might be on our residents and services. In fact, the impact has been significant and multi-faceted, and we’ve had to do lots of things differently.
One way it has impacted our resident group is through job losses as a result of the lockdown and closed businesses. The numbers have increased week on week, and as of today, 18 residents have informed us that they have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. Many of those were working in construction, warehouses, security, retail and hospitality.
Sadly, this has been happening across the country. Those who are considered essential workers are still able to carry out their duties, however, many employees have been either laid off, furloughed or having to apply for the self-employed support scheme in order to receive up to 80% of their income.
At Caritas Anchor House, residents have come to me after losing their jobs looking for advice and support. This often means spending time listening to residents as they share their worries around the impact this will have on them both financially and of course the anxieties that comes along with that. I have supported residents to claim Universal Credit where they do not meet the requirements for government financial support for employees during this time – this might be because they had secured a job between the end of February and the government announcement on furlough, or were not self-employed prior to 6 April 2019 and so therefore have not completed a tax return for the 2018/19 financial year.
Residents have expressed concerns around the length of time it could take until they receive their first Universal Credit payment, and how long the lockdown may be in place for. As we navigate this unprecedented time together, we do not always have the answers but we will do all we can to reassure residents that we are here to support them.
One example is a resident who was employed, on an agency basis, as a Loss Prevention Officer for a large retailer since September 2019. Due to the closure of clothing and lifestyle shops, he has now been laid off, and so we have supported him to apply for Universal Credit. He is hopeful that a job opening will available for him again once the store re-opens, but this provides him with an income in the meantime.
Our staff team are working hard to support our residents, particularly those with additional vulnerabilities and support needs, and this includes helping those who may struggle financial by providing advice, help with budgeting and access to other services. We know that many of our residents may experience financial hardship during this time, and we are prepared to step in and support them where we can, to prevent further hardship and distress.
We are grateful that as a charity we have received donations of food from both individuals and organisations, which is available for all residents each day. This makes a huge difference as it both relieves some of the financial pressures, but also supports residents to social-distance and visit the shops as little as possible.
Due to the nature of the lockdown and advice to social distance and self-isolate, we’re doing all we can to maintain regular contact with residents through the phone, and make sure we’re aware of any support they may need during this time. This certainly isn’t easy, but we will not give up – we are focused on helping all residents through this difficult crisis.