An initiative that provides dedicated support to families and individuals in rent arrears is helping people across the district to keep their homes rather than face eviction.
Mears Group, who provide repairs and maintenance service to 5000 homes owned by South Cambridgeshire District Council, have provided funding for a new Neighbourhood Officer who is helping people who have been taken to court for being in rent arrears and are at significant risk of losing their home.
In the six months since Paula Rae was recruited to the role, she has supported 56 households across the district.
“People get into rent arrears for all kinds of reasons,” Paula explains.
“They lose jobs, suffer bereavement, relationships break down. Sometimes people need to borrow money or stop paying bills to deal with a new situation. What I’ve learned is that people’s lives are complex and those on low incomes are particularly vulnerable when circumstances change.
Paula explains that while allowing people to continuously avoid repossession by making last minute and partial rent payments is not the answer, equally, evicting and eventually re-housing a vulnerable person can be an unhappy and expensive vicious cycle.
“In my role, I can try and get to the bottom of why someone has fallen behind with their rent, and then proactively help them to tackle those issues and get back on track. That might involve helping them to identify and apply for benefits they were not aware of, or it might be putting them in touch with organisations who can provide practical or emotional support.
“Whatever the intervention, if it helps people to stay in their home, then we see that as a successful outcome for everyone involved.”
Mears Group says the business and the moral cases for helping people to avoid eviction go hand in hand.
Divisional Managing Director for Mears, Peter Baldwin, said: “Mears’ vision is to make a positive difference in the communities we serve. Helping people to maintain their tenancies is absolutely the right thing to do: eviction is an incredibly traumatic process for anyone to go through. It is also costly for landlords and for wider society.
“If we can provide that intervention that helps people to meet their rent commitments and stay in their homes, then everyone wins.”