IN response to the need for ongoing advice and support during the cost of living crisis, independent charity Devon Communities Together is working in partnership with Citizens Advice Teignbridge to provide a specially designed "Affordability Training" online training course.
The course is specifically for organisations across Devon that support adults who are experiencing financial difficulty with their housing costs, or who are concerned about upcoming challenges with their housing finances.
Housing affordability has become worse in rural areas since the pandemic.
Between 2020 and 2021, it was estimated rental prices in suburban and rural areas jumped by 11 per cent compared to just two per cent in urban areas.
In 2022, the cheapest properties to buy were 8.8 times the earnings of those on lower incomes, compared with 7.6 times earnings in the city.
In addition, according to a recent Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) report*, it is estimated that 27 per cent of rural households are currently in fuel poverty, many of whom are off the gas grid and have not received the same level of government subsidy as those on dual tariffs. Perhaps the most distinctive challenge facing rural households is access to services.
Given that rural residents often need to travel more frequently and further to access employment and services, they have also been disproportionately affected by rising fuel prices.
The training will equip attendees with skills and knowledge to advise their clients on managing their overall income and expenditure, to be able to work towards more affordable housing costs in the long run.
Teena Barrett, from Citizens Advice Teignbridge, who will be delivering the training, explains more about what to expect: “We are really excited to be delivering this training in partnership with Devon Communities Together, and hope that we can support people who are struggling to become more profitable. What do we mean by this?
"Many people are not aware of all the different areas that can help reduce household outgoings, so we can advise on tools that can be used to look at reducing bills, but also things like re-negotiating rental and utility contracts that can carry a significant overall value in a household budget.”
Nora Corkery, CEO of Devon Communities Together, added: “As a charity, Devon Communities Together has a long history of working with other organisations like community groups, charities, Town and Parish Councils and many more, to empower and upskill them to better support people in their communities.
"This training, provided through our Devon Community Learning Academy, could help participants make a tangible difference to the lives of people they work with and ultimately improve their likelihood of accessing suitable housing.”
RISING COST OF LIVING
Katie Carter, Business Development and Partnerships Manager at Citizens Advice Devon (CAB Devon), has been reviewing the latest data from across Devon: “The rising cost-of-living, together with fears about energy prices, are directly contributing to higher levels of help with issues about welfare benefits and tax credits increasing by 12 per cent, on the same quarter in the previous year, and with continuing high demand for advice on issues relating to utilities (including energy).
"This highlights the ongoing challenges households have with maximising income to meet essential outgoings.
“We hope that by offering this Affordability Training, it will equip participants with the confidence and skills that will enable them to support their clients as best they can to identify new areas of generating income as well as saving costs, allowing them to be more profitable in the long run and in turn move towards more affordable housing costs.”
CAB Devon has seen increasing demand for benefits advice – up by 12 per cent - compared to the same quarter of the previous year**.
It has also seen a welcome decrease of six per cent in issues with utilities compared to the same quarter last year, but has seen a worrying increase of 59 per cent in issues with fuel debts.
Energy projects and additional funding through the Household Support Fund have contributed to essential support for families facing fuel poverty.
The online Affordability Training courses will run on Thursday, June 15 and Thursday, July 13, via Zoom, and discounts are available for early bookings as well as for members of Devon Communities Together and voluntary organisations.
For more information, please email: [email protected] , telephone 01392 248919 or search "Affordability Training" on Eventbrite to book.