Facing up to the next challenge

Alison Clements, our Head of Housing and Ceri Jones, Financial Well-being and Income Manager recently had the opportunity to co-write an article for Welsh Housing Quarterly (WHQ) magazine about how our coaching model is making a difference. 

Since introducing our neighbourhood coaching model in 2019, the needs and expectations of our customers have changed due to the impact of the pandemic. Like other social housing providers, we have had to adapt to make sure we continue to deliver services which meet their needs.

The coaching model is built on developing relationships and mutual trust with our customers which has been critical in enabling our coaches to reach out and offer support and assistance during this really difficult time.

Our person-centred approach helps to identify and prevent issues before they arise which aims to lessen the impact on the individual and the resources that would be required to reactively support them. Instead, our coaches focus on proactively supporting customers to sustain their tenancies and manage their money, while encouraging them to own their own solutions.

As a result, we have seen a reduction in rent arrears throughout this difficult period which we believe is testament to a relational model of housing. Engagement over enforcement is key to assisting customers through periods of financial struggle.

Now we are facing the cost-of-living crisis, the next major challenge for customers and colleagues in housing organisations. With more customers struggling with household finances and paying rent, we would traditionally expect to see an increase in rent arrears and additional demand for support.

However, as we have already experienced with the coaching model and by continuing to invest into personal engagement with customers, we hope to connect with more individuals in this upcoming period of financial hardship. Not only in terms of their financial well-being but their mental well-being also, as we know the two are inextricably linked.

To advance our work, we have set up a financial well-being and income team to ensure we continue to have the right resources in place to support our customers at the right time.

Looking ahead, key priorities for the team are:

  • Continuing with the coaching approach to build engagement and ensure commitment to no evictions into homelessness
  • Upskilling income coaches and support workers to signpost or offer money management advice
  • Developing more projects around financial well-being with an emphasis on scaling ideas from one-to-one to community outcomes.
  • Coaching in different physical spaces i.e. schools and community centres – upscaling income coaching from individual to community
  • Further mapping of community resources to signpost effectively
  • Identifying our most vulnerable households with a view to providing support to those most impacted by food and fuel poverty.
  • Collaboration with departments internally as well as fellow social landlords and establish a best practice approach.

We’re proud of the difference our coaching model is making for our customers’ lives and will always adapt our approach to deliver the best outcomes for those we work with.

Coaching in practice

Amy Jones and Beth Canham, two of our neighbourhood income coaches, recently spoke at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s TAI 2022 conference on how the coaching model is working in practice to support our customers.

Beth said: “Coaching to me is about building relationships and gaining trust from people to help them as much as possible whether that be with their independence or their financial wellbeing. Being able to make a difference to people’s lives is really rewarding.”

Here is an example of coaching in practice:

Miss A was in large arrears and after failed attempts of engagement the next step was to serve a notice seeking possession.

Using our discretion, we attempted to contact the customer again and were successful this time. The tenant disclosed numerous issues with budgeting and debts, various changes in her personal circumstances and advised she had been struggling with her mental health and well-being.

We offered advice, signposted and made support referrals. Most importantly we listened to the tenant and asked what she needed from us to make these decisions. We built trust and credibility and put support in place. The outcome of this has prevented legal action not only in income but in compliance, improved wellbeing for the tenant and reduced financial pressure.

We have also supported Miss A with a successful discretionary housing payment claim, with getting support from StepChange and putting an individual voluntary arrangement in place. Additionally, we have supported Miss A with job searching and we are pleased to say she started a new job on 13 June.