Housing Association Orbit has teamed up with the Fairbanking Foundation to support customers with their broader finances as they shift towards the new universal credit system.
The project will allow Orbit’s advisers, and its 100,000 customers, to see which products have been awarded the Fairbanking Mark, on a dedicated site that also will allow them to set financial goals and take action.
Sam Scharf, head of community investment at Orbit, said that the new system was being set up at a time when many housing association customers were being affected by the advent of the government’s new welfare system, universal credit.
The roll-out of universal credit began in 2013, and has led to a surge in the number of tenants in arrears.
Several major lenders were recently forced to deny rumours they are planning to refuse to offer mortgages to buy-to-let landlords with tenants on universal credit.
“Universal credit is the biggest change in the welfare system in a generation and has a huge impact on housing associations and their customers,” he said.
“The social housing sector has been working hard to support affected customers through the changes and has already made a significant contribution.
"With a large number of financial products out there, it is immensely helpful to have an independent and fully accredited certificate such as the Fairbanking Mark. It gives us confidence that a financial product actively promotes customer financial well-being.”
The move is the first significant initiative by the Fairbanking Foundation under its new chief executive, Aidene Walsh, who took over from founder Antony Elliott, OBE, earlier this year.
It follows a pilot stage, in which Orbit tested the value of both the Fairbanking Mark certifications and the best way to deliver this information to customers.
“The Mark, which currently certifies 35 financial products, designates products that help improve financial wellbeing, and can be given at three, four or five star level, depending on Fairbanking’s assessment of the level of the financial well-being the product delivers.
It is currently held by 19 financial institutions and FS providers such as Barclays, RBS and Natwest, Think Money, Capital One and several credit unions.
Ms Walsh said “Our Fairbanking Mark is designed to empower people to take charge of their financial wellbeing.
"Working with Orbit is a direct route for us to see our activities being turned into real action and to highlight those financial providers who have worked hard on improving their products to earn a Fairbanking Mark.
"We are currently looking for further housing associations like Orbit to make sure we deliver improved financial wellbeing to more communities in the UK.”