A 50 year old female single parent with a teenage daughter was housed by Optivo following the end of an abusive relationship and a period of homelessness. She had successfully completed her training to become a nurse but had not yet secured a job, and when she was contacted about the Rent-flex scheme in September 2017 she was using money she had previously put aside for her daughter to pay the rent.
“I came to the UK to join my husband but then he became abusive and I ended up in shelters. I had some savings in my daughter’s account, but I was using that money to pay the rent. I told myself that with time I’d get a job and be able to put it back. I fought through my studies and passed so highly because I knew I had to make it through. I finished my training but then had a lot of personal issues, so I hadn’t got a job and although I’d transferred my savings to the rent account I was really worried that the money would run out.”
Although the tenant was not in arrears with her rent, she had a history of payment problems and appeared eligible for the Rent-flex scheme. She responded positively to the offer of Rent-flex, and the on-boarding process alerted Optivo to the problems she was facing. Optivo’s Money Matters team helped her to claim benefits although they could not put her on Rent-flex because she was not working at that point:
“If I hadn’t spoken to the Money Matters Team at the time that I’d finished my training I don’t know what would have happened. Sorting out benefits is like climbing a mountain! I found the Money Matters Team to be like saviours, because without them I’d have had to beg from my friends. Talking to the Financial Inclusion Officer was great. She helped me to think through my options.”
Shortly afterwards, in November 2017, the tenant was successful in finding a nursing position and was then moved onto the Rent-flex scheme, which she used to build up her savings.
“I really liked the idea. There are times you have extra money and you can put it into the rent account and when you need it you can take a month rent-free. If it isn’t stored away somewhere you can end up impulse shopping, buying things you don’t really need, clothes that you never use. I’d rather put it on the rent account and know that I will always have a roof over my head.”
Between January and October 2018, the tenant built up a £600 credit on her rent account , when she used some of the money to buy a new bed for her daughter.
Although the Rent-flex pilot has now formally ended, the tenant is continuing to overpay on her rent with the intention of taking a month rent free later in the year:
“I’m going to carry on with it. When I have extra money I just pay it into the rent account. I love it, I love it! My rent is £540 per month, but I’ve been paying in over £600 and I’ve just convinced myself that the higher amount is my rent so I don’t even think about it anymore. I know that I can go on holiday and not pay rent for a month later this year. There are so many things I could do. I’m thinking of changing the seats in the living room, so I could use it for that. I’m able to use it then. I’m able to plan around it. My anxiety goes down. Even if I have a month off, taking the money, I know it’s managed. It’s like a godsend to me.”