How WHA’s Money Advice Officer became a lifeline for our tenants during the pandemic

01 Feb 2022

The pandemic changed all our lives, and our Money Advice Officer Steven Higham was at the heart of our response to it. Here he explains how he offered our customers the specialist support they needed – and helped them gain more than £500,000.

Steven said: “Overnight, my customers changed completely. The people who were long-term out of work, had disabilities or were part-time workers I had tended to support were replaced by a massive influx of people who had never been unemployed and suddenly their places of work had shut down or they had been made redundant. Most, understandably, didn’t have a clue where to turn.

“A quarter had sufficient technology skills that they could be signposted to access the correct support themselves. However, many of our clients needed dedicated help to get them through the benefit claim process.

“There were a lot of people approaching retirement age with no IT skills, that needed that extra support because everything was online, especially Universal Credit.

“I found that quite a few people never had to do these things before. They were upset to be thrust into the digital world with no alternative and just wanted to be able to see or speak to someone but obviously that wasn’t possible due to covid.”

Case study

“One of our clients was a man in his 50s who worked in warehouses and had never touched a computer in his life. He was suddenly having to claim Universal Credit because of the pandemic.

“It was very difficult to deal with the whole process of putting the claim in while I was on a headset at home talking him through it while he was on using his phone.

“He didn’t have an email. To set up a Universal Credit account you must enter an email address to get sent security codes. I set one up for him and taught him how to login and access the emails. I filled his forms in on my screen remotely while he retrieved the information that had been sent to his phone then passed it over to me.

“You need to set up an account for the Universal Credit and one for the ID check afterwards on different websites. I generated the UC account which sends an email with a code that is used to set up the account. Then go on to a third website to set up an account to do an ID check involving more email codes and text message codes again to access it.

“I showed him how to access his UC account online, how to claim and how to see all the different aspects.

“We finally got through the claim and submitted it. It was a long, drawn-out, process for the client just to get to position where he could make a claim and manage it on his phone.

“From my point of view, it isn’t just money advice. It is IT training as well.”


“People are still falling ill with coronavirus and needing my help to find out if they can claim for some support almost two years after the pandemic began.

“They might be working zero hours contracts and need temporary support to cover their time off sick. Depending on their National Insurance history, they could potentially access the New Style Employment and Support Allowance – which means another online application.

“Universal Credit is another option, but it comes with its own possible problems. If our customer is on legacy benefits, such as tax credits, UC is often not a good move as they lose those tax credits forever.

“It is awful for them to be put in that position where they need money now but if they get it now, they will be thousands of pounds worse off in the future. And they are having to make this terrible decision while struggling with covid.”

Briefing staff

“Changes were happening rapidly. I had to keep on top of ever-changing raft of emergency measures. People didn’t necessarily know what furlough meant at the beginning of the lockdowns or what support was available and what people needed to do.

“It was vital that frontline WHA staff knew that client on the old-style benefits were to be funnelled to me, so they got the correct advice before they contacted the DWP. So, keeping my colleagues fully briefed on these situations was essential.

“I put together a flow chart and a glossary to my colleagues up-to-date on all the changes and help guide them when they were working with our customers.”


“Bereavement support has been a big issue over the last two years, both for covid and non-covid reasons. People have lost a partner and do not know where to turn.

“A WHA customer died of covid and left behind his wife whose state pension was very low because of her work history. She came to me asking how she was going to live on £40 a week.

“I was able to explain that she needed to access the right benefits initially and that she could also inherit her husband’s National Insurance contributions to increase her own state pension. After that, there was still an eligibility for pension credits and funeral expenses support. It is just about guiding them through the benefits that are available to them.”

Since the beginning of pandemic in March 2020, Steven helped 247 people gain a total of £553,182.07.

His money advice service is free to WHA tenants, WHiA users and LifeTime members. Contact him here.


“Thank you so much for your help in getting me set up in my new home” 

Anonymous – WHA Resident

“We’re really grateful for the excellent service we received from Warrington Housing Association’s Money Adviser and the extra money has made a big difference, helping us hire a gardener and be able to go to LifeTime more often where we enjoy singing in the choir”

Mr & Mrs Holland – WHiA Customers

“I’m so grateful to Warrington Housing Association for reaching out to me to make sure I’m claiming my full benefit entitlements”

Ms Heseltine – WHA Resident

“We couldn’t have navigated the benefits system without the fantastic help we received from Warrington Housing Association’s Money Adviser”

Andrew & Eileen – WHA Residents

“I felt like a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders and that I had somebody on my side”

Barbara, WHA resident

Warrington Housing Association 

Contact Us

Tel: 01925 246810
Fax: 01925 246814

Warrington Housing Association, the Gateway, 89 Sankey Street, Warrington, WA1 1SR