Hi, my name is Clare. I’ve been an Income Officer with Stonewater for eight years now (working within Income team for almost four years) and the work we do is incredible!
The general perception of Income departments is a group of people who chase debt and that there is no feeling or empathy involved however, this is certainly not the case at Stonewater. Yes our main objective is to recover monies owed to us and to protect Stonewaters income stream, but we act with compassion, understanding and most of all: empathy.
The Income team has two sections: Early Intervention and Court Management. Early Intervention tackle rising debt and use a range of methods and signposting to assist our customers before debt increases. Whereas my role is within Court Management who follow on from Early Intervention at a stage where accounts need more direct and urgent attention to prevent escalating debt.
Debt can be caused by changes in benefits or severe financial difficulty and customers are often reluctant or embarrassed to address the issue with us. This is one of the biggest hurdles we want to get over as I, along with the rest of the team, are here to help and our main objective is to assist customers wherever we can so they can remain in their home. Once customers make the first step and call us to discuss their rent account, their fear of speaking to us usually disappears and I often hear people say they wish they’d called us sooner.
We work regularly with Benefits and a wide range of support agencies (including the homeless team) to; support customers, decrease debt, prevent court action and sustain tenancies – and we’ve seen some fantastic results.
Unfortunately there are some instances where Court action is unavoidable, either due to rising debt and/or lack of communication, which is incredibly disappointing and saddening for everyone involved however, sometimes this is the only option for us to protect our income. Once a Court Order is in place it’s a legally binding order for a repayment of the debt issued by the Court. Failure to comply with this order and ensure the repayment is adhered to may result in our customer losing their home. This is never our intention and as previously mentioned we always aim to work with our customers to try prevent this action, but unfortunately in some instances customers do lose their homes. This action is not taken lightly and is seen as a massive failure for Stonewater but it’s usually the result after exhausting all other available options.