INCOME MAXIMISATION OFFICER - HOUSING

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					                                                                 THIS REPORT RELATES
STIRLING COUNCIL                                                 TO ITEM
                                                                 ON THE AGENDA


CARE COMMITTEE                                                    ENVIRONMENTAL
                                                                  SERVICES: HOUSING
                                                                  SERVICES


24 August, 2000                                                   NOT EXEMPT


                      INCOME MAXIMISATION OFFICER - HOUSING




1     PURPOSE

      1.1   To seek approval for a range of measures aimed at improving the financial
            performance of the Council's housing stock, including the appointment of an
            Income Maximisation Officer for the Housing Service.



2     SUMMARY

      2.1   The report recommends appointment of an Income Maximisation Officer post
            to be located within the Advice Services team, Community Services. The
            postholder's work would be wholly directed to the Housing Services’ and
            Council tenants’ requirements.

      2.2   This appointment would fulfil a commitment identified in the Action Plan for
            Rent Arrears as approved by Care Committee on 23 March, 2000. This post
            would provide a resource to address a number of gaps identified in the review
            of arrears management such as;-

            !     a strategy to address skills training for Housing Officers;

            !     developing a strategy, in liaison with appropriate partners, for a
                  preventative arrears approach;

            !     developing a service strategy for income maximisation for Council tenants.

      2.3   Location of this post within Advice Services (Community Services) will provide
            opportunities to identify cross service working, and ensure the Housing
            Service is pro-active in relation to legislative changes in this area of work.

      2.4   Workplan priorities will be agreed between managers in Housing and
            Community Services with financial monitoring of effectiveness in relation to the
            postholder's activities.



3     RECOMMENDATION(S)

      3.1   To note and endorse the appointment of an Income Maximisation Officer
            based on the draft Job Description attached at Appendix 1.
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        3.2     To note and approve a range of measures aimed at improving rent arrears
                performance, specifically:-

                !   training strategy for Housing Officers;

                !   preventative arrears strategy;

                !   income maximisation strategy for tenants.



4       CONSIDERATIONS

        4.1     Care Committee of 23 March, 2000, approved a report entitled "Review of
                Arrears Management and Budgetary Control within Housing Services". This
                report, commissioned by the Housing Member Officer Group, contained an
                Action Plan detailing a series of improvements to take forward in relation to
                rent arrears. This report is consistent with the findings of the Working Group
                which considered that there was:

                "a clear gap in service to tenants regarding Welfare advice".

                The Action Plan recommended identifying revenue funding to address this gap
                through the provision of pro-active income maximisation work.

        4.2     An important context in relation to the proposed appointment of an income
                maximisation officer is the recent Joint report by the Accounts Commission
                and Scottish Homes "Managing Rent Arrears".            This emphasises the
                importance of a coherent prevention strategy for tenants and is the subject of
                another Care Committee agenda item.

        4.3     Gaps in skills for Housing Officers have been identified, and will be formally
                addressed in relation to arrears, and other areas of work, via the Training
                Needs Analysis and Personal Development Plan process which has been
                adopted within Environmental Services to tackle employee training and
                development needs.       These items were previously identified to Care
                Committee for action in March, and are now underway. This post will help to
                resource the need for focussed arrears management skills.

        4.4     In addition, the Service has also reconfigured from the previous three housing
                management areas to four, with the fourth Area Manager position appointed in
                July, 2000. A major factor in the reconfiguration was the need to create a
                better match between casework volumes and employee resources. The new
                postholder would work with Area Managers to take forward consistent
                strategies across the four management areas.

        4.5     The Housing Service currently collects a range of data in relation to rent
                arrears, but development of management information in relation to;

                !   preventative action;

                !   housing benefit;

                !   legal action/procedures.

                will be examined in line with continuous improvement, and the direction of the
                Accounts Commission/Scottish Homes Report on "Managing Rent Arrears".

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                Better quality management information will enable housing officers to act
                quickly when rent arrears arise.

        4.6     Purpose of the Post

                4.6.1   A draft job description is attached for information at Appendix 1. The
                        post grade will be assessed following Committee consideration of this
                        report, but similar indicative grades are around AP111.

                4.6.2   The postholder will be responsible for developing and taking forward
                        two particular strategies for the Housing Service:-

                        !    a preventative arrears strategy, and

                        !    an income maximisation strategy for tenants, consistent with the
                             Council's arrears policy

                4.6.3   The postholder will work closely with Area Housing Managers, Advice
                        Services and Exchequer Services in particular. It is proposed to locate
                        the postholder within Advice Services (Community Services) which
                        will:-

                        !    ensure the postholder is up to date with any changes in
                             regulations/legislation;

                        !    maximise opportunities for cross service working

                        This working arrangement will be reviewed on an annual basis to
                        ensure effectiveness. Workplan priorities will be agreed and set by the
                        Service Manager (Tenants Services) and the Manager (Advice
                        Services), and will reflect Area Housing Managers priorities, as well as
                        identifying any gaps in customer care.



5       POLICY IMPLICATIONS

        5.1     This appointment is consistent with the findings of the Housing Member Officer
                Group recommendations and the direction of the Accounts Commission
                Report on "Managing Rent Arrears". The promotion of preventative arrears
                strategies is socially inclusive to tenants.

        5.2     It is consistent with the Council's aims on Quality and Best Value.



6       CONSULTATIONS

        6.1     Consultations on this report have taken place with:-

                !   Community Services

                !   Exchequer Services

                !   Area Housing Managers



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7       RESOURCE IMPLICATIONS

        7.1     The total cost per annum of this post will be £20,000 maximum. This will be
                contained within the HRA Staffing Budget and is likely to be largely self-
                financing.

        7.2     A range of management information around the financial objectives of this post
                will be developed to ensure effectiveness.



8       BACKGROUND PAPERS

        8.1     Accounts Commission report "Managing Rent Arrears" 2000.

        8.2     Report to Care Committee "Review of Arrears Management and Budgetary
                Control within Housing Services" 23 March 2000.




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Author(s)
Name                              Designation                 Tel No/Extension

Valerie Rooney                    Head of Housing Services    443054



Approved by
Name                              Designation                 Signature

David Martin                      Director of Environmental
                                  Services



Date                                            Reference




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9       DRAFT

Stirling Council                                                                  Job Description

Section A                Community Services

Post Title:              Income Maximisation Officer (Permanent)

Grade:                   AP III (SCP 23 - 26)

Location:                Viewforth/Local Offices

Reports To (Title):      Service Manager, Advice Services




Section B
ORGANISATIONAL RELATIONSHIP
(Describe reporting relationship and illustrate the position of posts within the
immediate organisation. Where applicable show detail of the organisation to two tiers
above and below this post. Indicate numbers of indirect employees reporting to
each post. Grades and Post Numbers should also be indicated against all
established posts)


                                          Organisation Chart
                                    Director of Community Services


                                       Head of Strategic Support


                                  Service Manager Advice Services


                                    Income Maximisation Team
                    Income Max. Co-ordinator, Senior Clerical Assist x 5, Clerical Assist x 3
                                    Income Max. Officer (Permanent)
                                     Income Max. Officer (Temporary)




Section C
OTHER RESOURCES
(State detail, and value of financial, property, equipment, etc. resource(s) controlled
and precise nature of the post authority e.g. budget holder)

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Section D
PRINCIPAL PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVES

The postholder will assist develop Income Maximisation procedures by carrying out Financial
Assessments for Council tenants in Rent arrears and will maximise income for Stirling
Council and its' Service Users.




Section E
MAIN DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITIES

•   To obtain financial details from service users by telephone, home visits or by other
    appropriate methods.
•   To carry out financial assessments ensuring that rent charging policies and procedures
    are explained and understood by service users, their partners, appointees or
    representatives as appropriate.
•   To contribute as required, towards internal research and consultation on Welfare
    Benefits and Rent Arrears Management.
•   To offer comprehensive Income Maximisation advice to service users and other
    members of the household as appropriate.
•   To provide assistance with Welfare Benefits applications for service users and other
    household members as appropriate.
•   To liaise with other Council services and the Benefits Agency to ensure an efficient
    financial assessment process.
•   To maintain full service user contact records.
•   To develop a strategy and procedures of income maximisation which are complimentary
    to rent arrears process.
•   To liaise with Area Managers.
•   To produce statistics/monitoring reports on a regular basis.
•   To recommend changes to practices.
•   To assist with procedural and systems development in relation to the Financial
    Assessment process.
•   To organise, co-ordinate and maximise Benefit up-take campaigns.
•   To provide advice, training and assistance to Housing Staff.
•   To develop linkages between Benefits, Housing and DSS.
•   To hold income maximisation surgeries in the Councils Local Offices as required.
•   To organise and attend regular meetings with Local Housing Teams to provide advice
    and assistance in Rent Arrear cases where Income Maximisation issues have been
    identified.
•   To undertake such other duties as may from time to time be required.


Section F
COMMUNICATIONS

Internal:      Strategic Operational and Managerial staff in all Council Services

External:      Service Users, Service Providers, Other Public Sector and Voluntary
               Organisations




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Section G
DEMANDS
(Show range of information handled, problem analysis, forward thinking judgement
 and creativity)

Ability to work to deadlines, ability to manage competing priorities, ability to work as part of a
team. Flexible approach



Section H
WORKING ENVIRONMENT
(Describe any distinctive demands such as working conditions or requirements to
work overtime at short notice, other disruption of leisure etc. as a DEMAND OF THE
POST)

May have to work outwith regular hours from time to time, as required



Section I
KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE
(Where qualification(s) are stated, distinguish between essential and desired)

Essential:      Good Educational Standard
                Understanding of Welfare Benefits system and processes
                Good communication skills - written and oral

Desirable:      Experience of working within a local Authority Housing environment
                An understanding of debt management and current legislation with regard to
                Rent Arrears




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