Barnet Homes has been awarded a grant of almost £100,000 for a new project to prevent homelessness among ethnic minority tenants.

The offer of just over £95,000 from the Big Lottery Fund will enable a community link officer to work with residents and community leaders on financial management issues, as well as promoting training and employment opportunities available through Barnet Homes and partner organisations.

Barnet Homes applied for funding after analysis showed that people from certain ethnic groups were more likely to be in rent arrears that any others, so placing them at risk of losing their council tenancy and becoming homeless.

Focus groups with ethnic minority staff at Barnet Homes and residents highlighted, among other things, a reluctance among this group to claim benefits and a priority placed on sending money ‘back home’ rather than on payment of rent.

Over the period of the two-year Building Minority Engagement project, the new community link officer will be tasked with:

  • reducing the percentage of tenants in rent arrears
  • training community representatives on budget monitoring and welfare benefits with the help of the Citizens Advice Bureaux
  • referring more people from this group to training and development courses to improve their chances of long-term employment.

The link officer will be accountable to a steering group of Barnet Homes residents, staff, community leaders, charities, local organisations and faith based groups. The Jesus House church, based at Brent Cross, has also agreed to part fund the creation of an educational DVD.

Barnet Homes Chief Executive, Tracey Lees, said: “We have a commitment to helping people sustain their tenancies and to supporting people through the economic downturn through our ‘Feeling the Squeeze?’ campaign. We want to do all we can to prevent homelessness and evicting tenants for non-payment of rent is absolutely the last resort for us.

“All the statistics show that certain residents are more likely to be in financial difficulty and in rent arrears than any other group. This new funding will help us work with people from that group to address some of these issues, encourage take-up of benefits to which they are entitled, and pass on advice to their families and friends.

“We believe this project will improve the lives of hundreds of our tenants and are grateful for the support from the Big Lottery Fund.”