Get your Tenants Online in an Easy and Affordable Way

We have always worked hard to ensure we provide useful services and affordable solutions to our membership to help them cope with the ever-evolving needs of the sector they operate in.

Digital inclusion has become a real need in recent years and we are happy to offer some fantastic opportunities for our members to get their tenants online and therefore help them receive the knowledge and experience they need to live better lives.

We have put an offer in place to allow tenants to get the training, hardware and broadband access they need to be able to get online, address some of the barriers and to access a wide range of products and services. We offer the following courses and services:

  • 6-12 week basic group courses
  • One-to-one in-home tuition
  • Digital champion workshop for staff/volunteers
  • E-learning modules
  • Vital digital (full time telephone and live-chat support line)
  • Equipment
  • Equipment and handling fee
  • Engagement support
  • Evaluation

We have also negotiated exclusive, super-efficient broadband deals in a bid to help our members tackle digital exclusion amongst their tenants in the most effective and financially advantageous way. The latest deals that we have available are:

  • Fast Broadband (introductory offer) – £18.75 a month includes line rental
  • Faster Fibre Broadband (introductory offer) – £25.00 a month includes line rental
  • TV with Fast Broadband – £22.95 a month includes line rental
  • TV Plus with Fast Broadband – £28.50 a month includes line rental

If you would like to receive more information on both offers, please contact us on 0191 566 1000 or email us at solutions@consortiumprocurement.org.uk

Smarterbuys and Consortium Procurement offer discount broadband for tenants and staff

Smarterbuys and Consortium Procurement are pleased to announce the launch of a new discount broadband service exclusively for the tenants and staff of NHC member organisations.

As the national rollout of Universal Credit continues, access to the internet is becoming increasingly important for your customers. We have now teamed up with TalkTalk and Happus in order to offer discounted unlimited broadband deals which start at £10.85 per month for the first six months.

All packages come with free installation, a free router, and inclusive line rental, making them the best value broadband deals on the market. Customers also have the option to add on an optional landline call package, or even upgrade to fibre broadband if they are in an eligible area.

Martin Adams, Smarterbuys Vendor Manager, said:

“This new offer will help tenants to get online for an affordable price, and also access one of the country’s leading broadband suppliers.

“Households without the internet miss out on £560 of savings each year, and between 60 and 70% of education and work-related opportunities are only advertised on the internet, so it’s more important than ever to have online access.”

The announcement of the new broadband deal strengthens the relationship between Smarterbuys and Happus, who are already working together to offer tenants access to technology including tablets from £69.99.

To take advantage of this offer call 03300 10 33 00 and quote SMART1185 and let them know which housing association you’re calling from.

For more information on Smarterbuys and Consortium Procurement please call 0191 566 1000. To see the full range of products offered by Smarterbuys visit the Smarterbuys website. Terms and conditions apply. Full information on the broadband offer is available here.

Smarterbuys team up with Riverside’s Helping Hand programme

Smarterbuys has teamed up with Riverside to provide essential white goods and furniture to vulnerable tenants as part of its Helping Hand Programme, funded by and in partnership with Riverside Foundation. With the government cutting funding to local authority welfare schemes, many vulnerable social housing tenants will have fewer places to turn to in a crisis or when in hardship. In response, Riverside developed the Helping Hand Programme to directly support vulnerable tenants nationwide.

When looking for a supply partner for furniture and white goods they turned to Smarterbuys to provide the solution. Already successfully supplying local authority welfare schemes with new white goods and furniture they were an obvious choice. Prior to the scheme going live, Smarterbuys staff travelled to local Riverside offices nationwide to train the Community Involvement and Money Advisor teams. When registered with the scheme the officers have access to a range of products that once ordered are delivered to the tenant within days. Smarterbuys also offer a free white goods disposal service when the new item is delivered. With an optional cooker and washer connection service Smarterbuys offer a full package.

Launched in October 2014 the scheme has proved a lifeline to Riverside’s most vulnerable tenants.

Case Studies

Case Study: Washing Machine

The tenant’s situation

Tenant resides in 1 bedroom property and claims JSA but has suffered with depression over a long period of time. He is however actively seeking employment so as to improve his situation. When becoming a Riverside tenant he moved to the property without being able to fund essential white goods and furniture and has found it difficult to save money to purchase and he is not able to afford to repay social fund loans. Low level arrears had accrued on his rent account and energy arrears were present with British Gas.

Our involvement

Benefits check completed and budgeting advice provided, Tenant was struggling to maintain non-eligible service charges, an initial application was made to Newcastle council crisis fund for provision of white goods but this was refused. An application to Glasspool for the provision of a cooker was successful; we await the outcome of an application to the British Gas trust fund for help towards former supply arrears.

How the grant for Smarterbuys has helped

Tenant will be better able to manage as he will not need to use limited funds on using a laundrette. He has been washing clothes by hand as income is limited and tenant has acted upon budgeting advice and has been maintaining payment towards service charges. This access to essential white goods, without having to borrow funds he cannot afford to repay, will help him to continue to prioritise his budget and therefore maintain priority expenses.

Case Study: Fridge freezer

The tenant’s situation

Tenant suffered long term poor health, severe depression episodes. They had prior employment as a security guard until health prevented them from working. He has not been able to source essential household goods and he does not want to borrow money that he cannot afford to repay. He receives ESA and is in the Support Group and has a number of vulnerabilities and underlying household debts. He has nowhere to store cold foods and has been using a microwave to cook as the gas supply to the property is not fed through to the gas cooker that is in place. He has been finding it hard to budget as he has also had difficulties trying to open a basic bank account. Grocery costs are increased as food will spoil as nowhere to store and he has been more reliant on the purchase of ready meals.

Riverside’s involvement

Identified that EDP should be payable on top of ESA – ESA3 form requested and we will help tenant complete and submit – this will increase weekly income by approximately £13 p/w. We have raised gas supply query with local Riverside Office who will contact tenant to see what help can be given. If gas supply cannot be reinstated to cooker we will look at alternate trust funds for help with purchase of electric cooker. Details also passed to local Riverside Office to query assistance with Barclays Basic Banking. Advised tenant on PIP criteria and he will give consideration to making a claim. Tenant advised on Thames WaterSurePlus scheme/Trust options as this will help reduce ongoing water bills. Tenant felt that obtaining a fridge freezer as soon as possible would help him most. We registered tenant for WHD of £140 with British Gas.

How the grant for Smarterbuys has helped

Having the fridge freezer now means the tenant has better dietary options improving their wellbeing. Budget will also be more manageable and tenancy can be sustained as better able to prioritise. Basic bank account will open up saving options for payments by direct debit.

NHC and Incommunities launch their first household store

Incommunities officially opens its first ever Smarterbuys Store this week offering essential household items at great affordable prices (30th January).

The store is based in the ground floor ‘high street’ location of City House in Bradford city centre and has been developed in partnership with the Northern Housing Consortium. It is also supported by the social purpose bank, the Charity Bank who support thousands of good causes.

Smarterbuys offers affordable credit facilities for all Incommunities’ customers and is an alternative to turning to high cost lenders and loan sharks.

It is conveniently located so customers can also access local housing services and community banking facilities provided by Bradford District Credit Union.

Local Government Minister and Keighley MP, Kris Hopkins will cut a ceremonial ribbon at the entrance to the store to mark its official opening.

It is the first time a Yorkshire and Humberside housing association has launched a Smarterbuys retail outlet for its customers.

The store sells everything from white goods such as washing machines, cookers and fridges to televisions, furniture and smaller electrical items such as laptops and tablets.

There are various affordable finance options including weekly credit payment plans as well as credit and debit card facilities.

An affordability assessment and credit check is made into all applicants to ensure they can comfortably repay any loan agreed.

Products are also available for sale to the wider public.

The store has been running since September 2014 and attracts over 800 customers a week. By the end of 2014 over 160 customers had entered into loan agreements for different items.

Geraldine Howley, Incommunities Group Chief Executive said: “We are delighted to be working with the Northern Housing Consortium and the Charity Bank to offer this new service.

“We are committed to providing responsible financial assistance and advice to our customers, many of whom face living with tight household budgets.

“This new Smarterbuys Store provides affordable options and an invaluable alternative to getting into debt with unscrupulous high-cost lenders. It is also proving a great place to go for people moving home or looking to brighten up their own home.”

Jo Boaden, Chief Executive of the Northern Housing Consortium, said:

“The opening of The Smarterbuys Store is great news for Bradford and shows that Incommunities have a real desire to make a difference to residents’ lives.

“By offering a genuine affordable alternative to high-cost lenders we can help people buy the items they need in a way that can mean they don’t have to go without other essentials or resort to loan sharks.”

Local Government Minister, Kris Hopkins, said: “I’m pleased to see Incommunities become the first housing association in the region to offer this service, right at the heart of Bradford’s city centre.

“This new initiative will enable new residents to make their property their home, and I want to see more housing associations across the country looking to see what more they can do to support their tenants.”

Customers can also shop at Smarterbuys by going online at www.incommunities.sbstore.org.

NHC calls on local authorities to continue support of vulnerable tenants

The Northern Housing Consortium is calling on local authorities not to leave vulnerable people in the lurch when central government emergency funding comes to an end in April 2015.

Local welfare assistance grants, which support those in emergency situations to obtain essential household items, food and funding for heating and transport, will be cut next year, leaving many concerned about the impact this will have on some of the most disadvantaged families.

To help counter the problem of accessing emergency goods, the Northern Housing Consortium (a not-for-profit organisation) offers a service called Smarterbuys Essentials, which provides local authorities and housing providers with access to new, low cost household items which can be ordered in emergency situations.

To ensure vulnerable residents continue to be supported in emergency situations many charities and housing providers are now looking to Smarterbuys Essentials to see how the service can help them.

Tracy Harrison, Commercial Director at the Northern Housing Consortium, commented: “The Smarterbuys Essentials service has proved popular as a simple and transparent means by which our members can give vulnerable tenants and residents access to the things they need in times of crisis.”

In Stockton-on-Tees and Northumberland, the Northern Housing Consortium is working with social, economic and financial inclusion services provider, Five Lamps to provide items to vulnerable and disadvantaged tenants, within the context of wider Welfare Assistance programmes.

The partnership provides white goods and furniture to tenants in emergency situations using the NHC’s Smarterbuys Essentials service. In 2013-14, more than 300 Smarterbuys items were provided across the Stockton and Northumberland areas.

One Stockton-on-Tees resident, who received new items through the scheme commented: “I am so grateful for this help getting a new fridge and washing machine. Access to this kind of services has made a massive impact on me getting back my independence.”

Five Lamps Welfare Assistance Manager, Louise Robinson commented: “This is a service which is simple and it works. It provides a service which can really make a difference to the lives of our tenants when an emergency situation occurs. Having used Smarterbuys Essentials for just over a year, we have found the service to be very efficient and responsive with quality items being supplied and fitted, often within two working days.”

Five Lamps’ Chief Executive, Graeme Oram, adds: “We understand the position that local authorities have been placed in and share the concern of many support agencies across the country, and the authorities themselves, that reduced services, or potentially no services in some areas, will impact adversely on vulnerable people in the most disadvantaged communities.”

For more information on the Northern Housing Consortium or the Smarterbuys Essentials service, visit www.northern-consortium.org.uk/smarterbuys.

Smarterbuys Essentials helping vulnerable residents in Stockton and Northumberland

Economic and financial inclusion services provider Five Lamps has been using the Smarterbuys Essentials service for over a year, providing vulnerable and disadvantaged residents with white goods and furniture.

In 2013-14, more than 300 Smarterbuys items were provided across the Stockton and Northumberland areas.

One Stockton-on-Tees resident, who received new items through the scheme, commented: “I am so grateful for this help getting a new fridge and washing machine. Access to this kind of service has made a massive impact on me getting back my independence.”

Five Lamps Welfare Assistance Manager, Louise Robinson, said: “This is a service which is simple and it works. It provides a service which can really make a difference to the lives of our tenants when an emergency situation occurs. Having used Smarterbuys Essentials for just over a year, we have found the service to be very efficient and effective.

“The process of sending in an application for delivery of the product often takes as little as two working days and our applicants receive a good service with quality items being delivered and fitted efficiently.”

For more information about Smarterbuys Essentials contact Martin Adams on 0191 566 1028 or email martin.adams@northern-consortium.org.uk

Local Authorities look for solutions to the ending of Local Welfare Assistance Funding

Since the announcement that the funding for Local Welfare Assistance Schemes is to end on March 31st 2015, many local authorities are looking for innovative solutions to fund their schemes.

Local Welfare Assistance schemes provide a safety net for the poorest people in our communities to get access to emergency help with replacing basic household items such as washing machines, cookers, and beds. With the end of funding many local authorities have contacted the Northern Housing Consortium to find out how our Smarterbuys Essentials online portal can help them make the most of their resources for this important service.

Smarterbuys Essentials was set up when the responsibility for providing Local Welfare grants was passed from the Department for Work and Pensions. Initially given funding for two years, many local authorities looked for ways to maximise their budgets and approached the Northern Housing Consortium for a solution.

Having already set up an online store where members’ tenants could purchase a wide range of white goods and furniture without resorting to loan sharks, pay day lenders, and high interest weekly payment stores, the tools were in place to set up a secure portal where local authorities could access the same products without issuing vouchers or cash. This meant that the local authority was safe in the knowledge that the items required by an applicant would reach them quickly through the Smarterbuys supply chain.

Already partnering several local authorities to supply their current solution, and with a track record of being flexible and innovative, Smarterbuys are being approached by these and many other organisations – from social housing landlords to local charities – to provide a cost effective, secure way to get household items to those who need them most.

With budgets getting tighter, Smarterbuys are working with their partners to find innovative ways to make organisations’ money go further.

Many members of the NHC are setting up their own grant or low cost loan schemes, fearful that the demand upon the local authorities will result in some of their poorer tenants being turned away by the local authorities, as they tighten rules for receiving such grants to conserve funds available. Many are in discussions or have signed up to use the Smarterbuys Essentials portal to supply tenants that apply for help.

For their part, many local authorities are revisiting the Smarterbuys Essential offer with requests for assistance. These requests are being met with a flexible and open approach by the Smarterbuys team who are looking at many possible solutions to what is a problem for anyone dealing with the poorest people in our society. The Smarterbuys team believe that by listening and working with its partners and clients it has the right solution to help any organisation that needs a secure supply chain to get life’s essentials to those who most need them.

For more details about Smarterbuys Essentials and other Smarterbuys initiatives contact the Smarterbuys Team on 0191 5661000 or email info@smarterbuys.org.uk.