Project to support tenants at risk of eviction extended

A joint initiative between Orbit and Stratford-on-Avon District Council which is helping to prevent people at risk of eviction from losing their homes, has been extended for another year.

As part of the project, the housing association and local authority work with other local charities and organisations, including the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB), to reduce homelessness in the area by offering people support and advice on issues such as money management, benefits, employment and training.

A specialist Tenancy Interventions Officer, funded by the council and employed by Orbit, works directly with tenants at risk of eviction to help them reduce and clear their rent arrears as well as offering them support and advice through Orbit’s Better Days programme, which helps thousands of people every year to find work, improve their digital and money management skills and support their mental wellbeing. Orbit’s Tenancy Sustainment Job coaches also offer “life skills” coaching sessions to help customers develop positive behaviours and learn the skills they need to manage their finances and sustain their tenancies.

Since the start of the project, Orbit has supported 338 customers in the Stratford area, prevented 100% of evictions, and reduced and cleared rent arrears of over £300,000 using various support funds and customer payments.

Sharon Jones, Tenancy Interventions Officer for Orbit, said: “My role is to keep people in their homes and to understand what’s going on for every individual, couples and families. It’s about looking at the bigger picture, then creating a plan to find a solution to each and everyone’s situation. It’s about empowering customers to take responsibility, encourage and coach people into managing their own tenancies so that the cycle of arrears is not repeated. It’s a very challenging role, but also incredibly rewarding. This is about making a difference and changing people’s lives for the better. It’s a role which is only made possible by the investment by Stratford-on-Avon District Council but is sustained by the help of effective partnership working with other local agencies.”

An Orbit tenant who successfully cleared their arrears with Sharon’s help commented: “Having had a bad year since Covid and lockdown, I suffered mental health issues and had a breakdown. I was also burying my head in the sand and avoiding Orbit due to rent arrears. Sharon has been an absolute rock, so helpful and supportive all the way. Having cleared my arrears, Sharon continued to support me in having my eviction cancelled and my tenancy renewed.”

As part of the project, Orbit also works with CAB and the local Preventing Homelessness Improving Lives (PHIL) project, which aims to offer early intervention to prevent homelessness, with weekly face-to-face advice and support sessions offered to customers before they reach crisis point.

Councillor Jo Barker, Portfolio Holder for Homes, Health and Wellbeing at Stratford-on-Avon District Council added: “I am pleased to hear about the success of this role and that the proactive support provided to tenants at risk of eviction can prevent homelessness. The Council is determined to do everything it can to enable tenants to remain in their homes. This role is important because not only does it prevent homelessness, but it also provides coaching and support to empower tenants so they can help themselves in order to meet their liabilities. Clearly, much has already been achieved with this Council funding and I am pleased that this role has been extended for a further 12 months.”