Curo’s Passport to Housing service has had another fantastic year. Here’s what a difference (another) year makes to customers’ lives.
Passport to Housing is a free and confidential service we offer to people bidding for social housing in Bath & North East Somerset. It’s designed to help people prepare for a successful tenancy and plan for the expense of moving. We created Passport to Housing because we saw that government changes to welfare would have a big impact on many customers’ ability to make ends meet – in particular with Bath becoming one of the first places in the UK to trial Universal Credit.
Passport to Housing has become a key part of the journey we lead customers through when they first approach Curo about accessing housing. We know that customers who complete our Passport process go on to have successful tenancies – to rent a home they can afford, keep and enjoy.
Every Passport customer is asked to give feedback about what went well and what they’d like us to work on. We track how customers are managing financially after completing the process and measure the ‘social return on our investment’ – ie what it would have cost the state and other agencies if our support hadn’t been there.
Here are some of results for the past year:
- Unpaid rent (arrears) among Passport to Housing customers is 0.84% of their annual rent compared with 1.76% for customers who haven’t used the service.
- This excludes customers claiming Universal Credit (which doesn’t pay Housing Benefit directly to landlords). Universal Credit claimants using Passport have arrears at 4.10% of their annual rent compared with 10.07% for those who haven’t used Passport.
And 100% of customers surveyed said that Passport to Housing addressed all their money worries.
Passport to Housing puts money in pockets. So far this financial year we’ve put £230,000 back in pockets through debt write-off, reduced expenditure, better fuel and water tariffs, increased benefit income, lump-sum payments of grants, discretionary housing payments, welfare support fund payments and charity payments.
Passport to Housing customers strongly recommend the service with a Net Promoter Score of +83 (compare that with top three highest scoring consumer brands: First Direct +73, Nationwide +43, Tesco Mobile +38).
How do people come to use Passport to Housing?
Most of our customers now self-refer and we’re always booked up at least three weeks in advance. Everyone applying to rent a Curo home is asked to complete an affordability assessment. Where we have concerns about the ability to afford the property they’re interested in, we’ll refer them to Passport to Housing – 59 people were referred to the service in this way last year.
If the customer is happy to work with us their financial difficulties can usually be resolved once Passport is completed. The savings customers make is often enough to turn a ‘sorry, not now’ from our Lettings Team into a ‘yes!’
In the majority of our Passport to Housing cases, rent accounts are in credit. The reason we get involved is to help people secure a month’s rent upfront. This is important given that our customers claiming Universal Credit – now rolling out in Bath – have to wait six weeks for their first housing payment to come through.
Other ways we put money back in customers’ pockets
Passport is important, but just one of many ways we help to make customers better off in Curo’s Customer Accounts Team. Over the year our own Customer Accounts initiatives and the partner agencies we commission to deliver services secured £553,000 to make our customers better off.* That means less debt, less arrears and money back into the local economy.
*That’s not to mention other Curo schemes like Working Well, our Employability Service and Independent Living Service – all helping customers to increase their income and save money.
Investing in successful tenancies
The investment we make through Passport to Housing is transformational, not transactional. It increases the costs to Curo for acquiring new customers but this investment pays out over the life of the tenancy. We know our investment in physical properties and places is wasted if we don’t invest in customers at the same time.
Improving financial capability, affordable warmth and help finding work are the three main activities that make customers better off and should be the core of any anti-poverty strategy.
What do Passport to Housing customers say?
Customers tell us they love it… Passport to Housing really does change lives. Many customers have shared their stories about the transformation the service has had on their lives:
- Sally and Aaron needed to move, but debts meant taking on a new tenancy was going to be hard. Sally explained how Passport helped them clear their debts and make the right move.
- Keynsham resident Della was hit by the 'bedroom tax' which reduced the support she could get to cover her rent. Della told us how Passport to Housing helped her to take charge of her money and move into a new home that she could afford.
- Beverly wrote to thank us for the support she received through Passport to Housing and Reach, a housing support agency we work with. She kindly allowed us to share her letter and agreed to tell her story on film too.
I also have to mention that Curo were finalists for the UK Housing Awards in April 2017. Out of many candidates we were shortlisted to the final six but pipped at the post by another very worthy housing provider. We’re very proud of this and the recognition it gained for Passport to Housing.
Finally, we are looking to facilitate quarterly meetings where interested groups can get together to consider the future of our money advice services, identify trends, work together to reduce any duplication of effort, and see where we can support each other and our customers. We already know the detrimental effect welfare reform is having on our customers’ lives. Shelter announced last year 500,000 private tenants paid their rent by borrowing money; considering many people cannot access fair credit that suggests a lot of borrowing from unscrupulous lenders.
A big thanks to all our partners who have helped us to provide this important service. We look forward to continued success, working together to change people’s lives for the better.