At Abri, we believe that everyone has the right to a safe and warm home. And with the UK currently experiencing a cost of living crisis, we’re doing everything we can to support customers through this period.
How is the cost of living crisis impacting customers?
The cost of living crisis means that the cost of everyday goods and services are rising faster than the average household income. Households in poverty, those who are benefit capped, single parents, and people with a disability will be impacted much more than others. Low income households are said to be the most affected by the rising cost of living and are set to see higher inflation as they spend a larger proportion of their income than average on energy and food. That’s why, now more than ever, it’s crucial that we find ways to support our customers.
We’re in the process of surveying our customers to identify what impact the cost of living is having on them. So far we’ve received over 4,000 responses (17% response rate). Here are the headlines:
- 96% report their cost of living has increased
- 52% worry about meeting monthly living expenses all or most of the time
- 47% have gone without heating because they can’t afford it
What is Abri doing about it?
We’re continuously monitoring the situation and have given our teams more resources so that they’re ready and able to respond. Our main priority is to support our customers. There isn’t a one size fits all solution. We’re looking closely at our data, and listening to what our frontline colleagues are hearing, to understand how each of our customers might be affected so that we can target our support.
For immediate support, we already have many measures in place. Our Tenancy Support Services (which we’ve grown in response to the cost of living crisis) are a simple way for our customers to access help when they need it. So far this year, circa 3,000 customers have been referred to the service. Customers can receive advice on welfare benefits, budgeting and other issues that might put their tenancy at risk. This year to date, we have:
- Helped customers secure more than £1.49m in benefits that might otherwise have gone unclaimed
- Supported over 70 households to access white goods, carpets and other essential items, helping to prevent £119,000 worth of appliance poverty
- Provided our customers with access to over 150 food parcels
- Provided fuel vouchers.
Abri means shelter, and providing shelter is our purpose. We firmly support the National Housing Federation’s pledge to support any customer that is struggling with money worries and we will not evict a customer due to financial hardship as long as they are engaging with us to get their payments back on track.
We will keep people secure in their homes, help those who are struggling to get the support they need, and as always, act compassionately and quickly where people are struggling.
We’ll shortly be sending customers a cost of living leaflet to share some top tips, including how to access support at Abri, energy saving advice, employment support and a benefits and budget calculator.
The cost of living crisis will affect our colleagues, too. Our colleagues have access to ROAR, our online discounts and rewards scheme, to help them save money on everyday spending. So far this year colleagues have saved more than £24,000.
Supporting our local communities
We believe local people know what's best for them and their community. Our Customer First strategy recognises just how important working with our communities is. We’re refocusing our community investment and resident involvement, resetting our aim to go where the need is greatest. This means we can target our resources and investment, amplify our work with local delivery partners and adapt our approach when appropriate.
Our Community Fund is one way we invest in local community projects and bolster the efforts of local people. In 22/23 we have £90,000 of funding available. We’re supporting community pantries, locally-owned ones such as Gosport Community Pantry, as well as setting up our own in our cafés – Round About Café in Mansbridge and Café 1759 in Whitehill and Bordon. They help customers to buy food at a fraction of the cost. There’s also the Good Grub Club, which tackles food inequality during the school holidays. Since 2018 it’s helped hundreds of families by providing nutritious free meals, while helping parents to develop confidence, skills and knowledge around cooking on a budget. Recently, we provided £56,000 from our Partnership Fund to six local organisations to run the club for 12 months.
We are continually adapting and exploring interventions to help our communities face rising costs. Other projects include free weekly activities such as the Doorstep Sports Club with Wiltshire Council, school uniform and clothes swaps, and free holiday activities for children and families.
What else can we do?
We know that we can always do more to support our customers and through the hard work of all Abri colleagues, we’ll make sure we’re in the best position to do this. Whether that’s helping them to maximise their income by taking advantage of any support measures, or improving the energy efficiency of our homes to help combat soaring energy bills. In the last financial year we committed £1.4m in additional funding for planned maintenance, and a further £284k through wave one of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund for our homes in South Somerset. We’ve submitted a bid for wave two of the fund to help us improve the energy efficiency of even more homes. And for situations when our homes require more urgent attention, all of our colleagues are empowered to ‘See Something Say Something’ so that we can address it as a priority.
Looking to the future, we’ll continue to work with our new government on any further support that is offered. Through the work of our Tenancy Support Services, we’ll help our customers to maximise their income by taking advantage of any support measures.
We will continue to monitor government announcements and the impact new measures and support could have on our customers and how we can help them through this cost of living crisis.