SW9 is a community. It is at times such as these that we need to do our best for ourselves, our families and each other. There are many stories to tell of how we are responding to Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on our lives.
In an ongoing series of interviews, we are going to be asking a number of staff and residents about how their lives have changed since lockdown; what they have been doing, how they have been doing it and how they are getting on.
Lockdown Lives 2: Lan Chuong, SW9 Interim Income Team Leader
Lan Chuong is the SW9 Interim Income Team Leader. She supports residents in paying their rent and can offer advice for those who find themselves in difficulty. We asked Lan a little bit about what she has been doing since lockdown.
Under normal circumstances, what is your day job like?
The SW9 Income team monitor rent account on a weekly basis, making sure resident’s rent accounts are up to date. We liaise with Housing Benefit and Universal Credit to ensure that they have the correct rent on their system and to fix any other issues.
We provide residents with information and advice on welfare benefit, balances, rent and taking payments. We support tenants by referring them to our welfare team who can check if they are receiving all the benefits they may be entitled to or to appeal against a decision made by housing benefit or the DWP. We help tenants complete Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) paperwork, Change of Address forms and even update their Universal Credit journals on their behalf.
We put realistic arrangements in place to help residents bring their accounts up to date. We will try all means to contact residents to help them sustain their tenancy before taking legal action.
How this has changed during lockdown?
The lockdown has prevented us from seeing residents face to face and this has restricted the amount of help we can give in completing DHP forms and updating their new rent on the Universal Credit journals. Residents are more used to coming into the office with their issues.
What has been the most challenging thing for you at work during this time?
The most challenging thing would be trying to contact residents as their contact number or email on the system are not up to date or they’re not picking up the call. Our Estate Officers have been helping us by dropping calling cards but some residents still do not call us back. It is important that residents make contact with us so we can help them. If they receive a call, text, email or calling card from SW9 then it may mean there is an issue regarding their rent, Housing Benefit or even Universal Credit.
It has also been hard trying to get residents to update their Universal Credit journal with the new rent amounts. This is important as we need to make sure they are receiving the correct payments so they don’t find they’re in arrears later.
What has been the most challenging thing for you personally since lockdown?
The amount of work seems to have increased as we are concerned about our residents that have been affected during the pandemic as their income has been reduced or they may have lost their job. We try to offer as much advice and support as we can.
It is hard for us to inform residents that they have to continue to pay full rent during this time . We can only offer advice on what they can do to increase their income by seeking advice from Citizen advice Bureau or by applying for Universal Credit.
On a personal level, I realised that I have been working overtime a lot since working from home. I only stop when I’m tired. I have now recently stopped myself from working past 5.30pm which has helped me have a more relaxed weekend.
I do miss visiting friends and families, having a chat or video call over the phone just isn’t the same. I also miss going out and eating out.
Is there anything else you would like residents to know?
If you are struggling to pay your rent or having any issues with benefits, please don’t suffer in silence. We are here to help, so please do contact the SW9 Income team to discuss your issues. We will do our best to offer the appropriate advice, referral and food bank vouchers.
- Telephone: 0207 326 3700
- Email: Rents@sw9.org.uk
Stay home, stay safe, save lives.