HOUSING group Gentoo is visiting more than 4,000 tenants who will be affected by the Government’s controversial housing benefit cuts.
The change, introduced this week, will see tenants living in social landlord properties lose part of their benefit if they are held to be living in larger homes than they actually need.
The Coaltion Government says the cuts will mean an end to taxpayers subsidising people to live in houses that are bigger than they need, but critics have dubbed the changes a bedroom tax.
The moves have sparked protests across the country, including in Durham City last month.
Gentoo says the move will cost those households effected an average £663 per year.
Ian Porter, managing director of Gentoo Sunderland, urged those struggling to cope not to stick their head in the sand.
“The Government’s changes will affect both working and unemployed customers and in the current climate we are already seeing that a significant number will struggle.
“By talking to our customers face-to-face and going through their options, we have been able to get a detailed understanding of the challenges customers face.”
He added: “Circumstances change every day and we expect our figures to fluctuate. At present we have concentrated efforts on utilising existing staffing resources, and have restructured our teams to offer additional support.
“A core group of staff have received in-depth training to provide advice around the impact Welfare Reform may have on households specifically.
“We are taking a number of positive steps to support our customers, and the group is working together with a range of partners to put services and support networks in place to assist. It is important that customers talk to us if they are having difficulties.”
Gentoo said front-line staff have been working closely with tenants to make sure they know what options are available to them, offering financial advice where appropriate and helping those who are willing to move to a smaller home. About 1,000 customers have said they are willing to consider a move and are being offered the chance to do so where possible.
Tenants wanting a move can bid for properties via the firm’s Choice Based Lettings System or register for its Mutual Exchange service, which allows them to swap homes with other tenants.