WDH’s Cash Wise project has improved the financial capabilities of social housing tenants, which has helped them maintain their tenancies and reduced rent arrears, saving the organisation money.
What the judges thought
- Cash Wise uses financial inclusion as an enabler to get people to open up about wider underlying issues. The programme is commendable for its holistic and flexible approach, and willingness to extend support to addressing wider issues such as employability, healthy eating and even DIY skills.
- The programme looks at its participants as real people, rather than just a debt/arrears issue, which makes it more powerful.
- Cash Wise is making a real impact in a specific community, differentiated from similar programmes by the personalised, one to one, flexible support it offers, making a difference to those participating.
Social and business impacts
- Recouped more than £200,000 of unclaimed benefits.
- Reduced rent arrears of those who have participated in Cash Wise by 24% over a six month period and improved tenants’ financial standing.
- Obtained over £40,000 of grants for tenants to help with basic home furnishings and white goods, as well as grants to reduce gas, electricity and water arrears.
- Reduction in rent arrears of 24% for tenants on Cash Wise has boosted bottom line figure.
- Revealed new, effective ways of interacting with tenants on difficult subjects.
- Achieved 100% positive media coverage locally and in trade, which has improved WDH’s reputation and made it an example of best practice.
Welfare reforms, including the bedroom tax and changes to laws on council tax, have left many social housing tenants with less money and more financial commitments than ever before. In 2012, social housing provider WDH carried out a tenant satisfaction survey which revealed that 48% of its tenants were struggling to manage their money.
Giving people the skills they need to manage their money
Cash Wise has given 550 tenants the knowledge and skills to take control of their financial affairs and sustain their tenancies. The project is funded by a Big Lottery grant of £586,000 over three years. This has enabled the WDH Cash Wise team to deliver 300 interactive workshops across the Wakefield district and 500 intensive one-to-one sessions at tenants’ homes.
During the sessions, tenants learn about a range of financial topics, including how to fill in benefit forms correctly, understanding household bills, budgeting, scams and fraud. As well as financial management, lessons are offered in related life skills such as cooking on a budget and basic DIY.
Reducing arrears and recouping unclaimed benefits
The project has increased the financial capability and confidence of vulnerable tenants and given them skills to sustain their tenancies and improve their lifestyles. It has recouped more than £200,000 in unclaimed benefits for tenants and obtained £40,000 in grants to help them with basic home furnishings and white goods. The social return on investment is £2.30 for every £1 spent.
Cash Wise has benefited WDH by supporting its business aim to maximise rental income and reduce arrears. Tenants are more likely to understand the importance of paying their rent and have the funds to do so. All participants can now create a household budget and all have reported an increase in their financial confidence. This has saved WDH money – a 24% reduction in rent arrears – as well as saving the costs of chasing those in arrears. Not only is this financial saving important to the running of the business, but it has allowed WDH to realise a new way to maintain revenue streams in the future.
The success of Cash Wise has led to WDH agreeing to fund the project indefinitely beyond the end of the Big Lottery’s support in 2016. This will allow even more tenants to learn the skills to sustain their tenancy and help WDH drive down costs.
What WDH's Chief Executive said:
“The success Cash Wise has enjoyed in its short time as a WDH project has been simply astounding. The dedicated work of the team has generated some incredible results that have not only made a real, meaningful difference to the lives of those tenants who have participated, but have also shown the wider business effective and productive new ways of interacting with some of our most vulnerable tenants on the difficult issue of financial support. We have committed to continuing Cash Wise once the Big Lottery Funding ends, so we can continue helping tenants meet the challenges of welfare reform.” - Kevin Dodd – Chief Executive, WDH