£780k pandemic support for Midlothian households

Sunday October 3rd 2021


From left to right Melville Housing Association’s Welfare Benefits Advisers Andrew Collinge and John Scott

Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

In a year blighted by the Covid-19 pandemic, 88 struggling households from across the Lothians, Lanarkshire and Edinburgh are almost £800,000 better off thanks to the hard work of an award-winning welfare benefits advice service.

Last year, Melville Housing Association’s two dedicated Welfare Benefits Advisers played a crucial role in maximising tenant income, helping households claim benefits worth £778,158, an average of £8,842 each. For the first time this also included claimants new to Universal Credit who found themselves out of work during the pandemic.

“The service is much needed, more so during the Covid-19 situation when people need clear information and a listening ear,” said one grateful Melville customer. “The help I received has been life changing. I have not been well for four years and these two amazing people have helped me on my journey to recovery. I can now start getting my life back and live again.”

Feedback for the service during the year was also overwhelmingly positive, with customer satisfaction levels of 100%. Nine out of ten (87%) who used the service also said it helped with their mental health, leaving them less anxious and stressed.

“During what has been an extremely difficult year for so many, these results are tremendous, and a real testament to the hard work and dedication of our welfare advice team,” said Melville Chief Executive John McMorrow.

“I’m not sure what’s more impressive; the fact that there was no dip in service at the turn of the year following the retirement of one half of our team, or that there was no dip in service due to the pandemic and the need to adapt to new ways of working. A huge well done to everyone involved in delivering this vital service.”

The Melville team is made up of highly experienced advisers Andrew Collinge and John Scott, who joined in November 2020 following the retirement of long-term staff member Jacquie Mather. In addition to helping tenants with benefits claims and appealing incorrect decisions the team also provides heating and fuel advice, and earlier this year secured funding of more than £20k from the Scottish Social Housing Fuel Support Fund, giving tenants in fuel debt direct access to energy vouchers.

Melville tenants who need benefits advice, or help from Melville’s dedicated money advice service, should visit www.melville.org.uk or phone 0131 654 2733 and speak to the housing section. Help is also available from independent organisations such as Citizen’s Advice.

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