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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Housing Rights responds to House of Lords inquiry on financial exclusion

Housing Rights has responded to a call for evidence by a House of Lords Inquiry into financial exclusion in the UK.

The House of Lords appointed a Select Committee on 25th May 2016, to consider financial exclusion and access to mainstream financial services. Our response highlighted several issues.

Clients’ experience of financial exclusion

Housing Rights regularly offers advice, support and representation to clients whose housing situation has been impacted detrimentally as a consequence of their financial exclusion. In the course of our work, we support people living in all housing tenures, with some common themes being the inability to access affordable credit, accumulation of debt(s) and the difficulty of meeting basic living expenses. Clients’ financial exclusion can often interact with other forms of exclusion, particularly digital and rural exclusion.

Financial training for landlords & tenants

Independent advice and support are highly valuable, in terms of helping individuals suffering from financial exclusion to maximise their income, and make informed spending and budgeting decisions. Our experience of providing training to social landlords and tenants underlines the importance of equipping landlords and empowering tenants with skills and knowledge to combat financial exclusion. This training can also be useful in enabling social landlords, or lenders, to work constructively with financially excluded tenants and clients.

Access to affordable credit

Housing Rights views access to affordable credit, in combination with access to effective knowledge, skills and support, as an effective route out of financial exclusion for affected households. 2013 research commissioned in partnership with the Consumer Council (NI) suggests that the credit union movement in Northern Ireland has the potential to play a major strategic role in the provision of financial services for financially excluded households.

Welfare reform and financial exclusion

Recent and pending reforms to the welfare system may come to have negative effects on the financial exclusion of many of Housing Rights’ clients. Reforms including the roll-out of Universal Credit; the Benefit Cap; and the ongoing freeze on Housing Benefit in the private rented sector, risk causing rent arrears and otherwise increasing the financial exclusion of our client base.

Experiencing rent arrears or affordability issues?

Our helpline offers support to people struggling to afford their home; call 02890245640 from 9.30am-2.30pm Monday to Friday, for expert advice on dealing with rent arrears and affordability issues.

You can also visit our online advice website, housingadviceNI, which includes several budgeting tools and calculators which can help.

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Stephen Orme

This article was written on 23 September 2016. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.