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Lets Talk Rent Crisis hit Wayne back on track

Just a few months ago, Wayne McGeachy was in financial and personal crisis, struggling with a long-term mental health condition and facing high levels of rent and Council Tax arrears.

He had no electricity in his flat and had closed himself off from the world, finding it difficult to talk to anyone but his immediate family.

But now, just months on, his life is getting back on track, his arrears problems are solved and he’s even finding it easier to engage with people, thanks to the support of his family and intervention from some caring Riverside officers.

Having struggled throughout life with his mental wellbeing, Wayne, found himself in crisis towards the middle of last year and was committed to a mental health facility for treatment.

Having not been in contact with anyone for so long, his benefits were stopped and rent and Council Tax arrears began to build. At one stage, they totalled around £1,750.

But with the rent arrears starting to increase, his local housing officer became aware of the problem and the turnaround began.

“Anh Tran (Wayne’s housing officer) was brilliant,” his sister Debbie said.

“Me and my family were trying to help him and we initially asked her if she could get him a cooker. He had not been looking after himself properly and had been living off microwave meals.

“She put us in touch with Sasha (Lawrence-Jackson), another Riverside officer, and she came out to us.”

Sasha immediately set to work, applying for funding for white goods and a new cooker and commissioning a range of repairs.

She also referred Wayne to Deborah Rogerson, a money advisor in Riverside’s income maximisation team, who immediately began to tackle his financial issues.

Deborah helped with a range of benefits and support issues, securing two backdated Housing Benefits payments totalling almost £1,400.

She also helped secure Council Tax support and the cancellation of a large part of his outstanding debt, leaving him needing to pay less than £5 per month.

Finally, Sasha helped Wayne with a re-application for Universal Credit, an application for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and put in place an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA) which will see rent paid directly to Riverside, helping to secure his tenancy and avoid future problems.

Debbie said: “Sasha was great and helped him to make claims and deal with the benefits agencies and managed to resolve it.

“Then she managed to get us lots of other support too and said if we needed anything, she’s just a phone call away.

“Now he’s free of arrears and back on track.”

With his arrears problems solved and with family and Riverside more aware of the challenges he faces, Wayne can now look forward to more support in the future to continue his progress.

“He’s a lot better,” Debbie said. “He still struggles to speak to people and will only communicate with me sometimes but we do his food shopping for him and make sure he gets the right medication and he’s doing fine.

“Plus it’s really helping that he’s got a cooker and he can make food for himself. He needs to build his confidence but he’s got the support he needs.”