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How ExtraCare’s Welfare Benefits Officers are saving retirement village residents nearly £5m!

We recently sat down with Welfare Benefits Lead Natalie James. Natalie discusses how she can help ExtraCare residents, what she loves about her role and how the team have already helped find many residents financial relief.

Can you tell us about your role at ExtraCare and your working history?

“I have worked for ExtraCare for over 22 years as a Welfare Benefits Advisor and I have recently become Welfare Benefits Lead. My working life has been spent gaining a wealth of experience in Welfare Benefits. From the age of 17 I worked for the DSS then the DWP. I have seen many changes over those years to the system. We are a small team, myself and Paul Greensmith share responsibility for welfare benefits advice across all ExtraCare’s locations, whilst also completing all necessary claim forms for our residents. My new role gives me the ability to help shape the future of our team, the service we provide to our residents and influence how the Charity responds to the ever changing benefits landscape.”

What are the main areas you help residents with?

“Our main aim is to assist our residents to maximise their income through identifying benefits and assistance they may be missing out on. Paul and I provide regular surgeries where residents can come and see us in a private and confidential setting. If they prefer, they can email us or call us instead. We work closely with our sales and housing departments providing affordability assessments before people move in, so they have a clear picture of what they are going to be left with after paying their charges. We then follow this through to assisting with the necessary claims upon move in. Through providing regular surgeries we can capture changes in circumstances to income or health/care needs and any associated benefits we can claim for residents. We also provide training to our staff so they can also assist us in capturing those that may need help.”

Benefits Lead Natalie James

If a resident wants to speak to you what is the process?

“They should contact their location reception desk they will be able to provide the email and phone number for the relevant advisor for that location, the contact details are also on any correspondence that is issued.”

What do you enjoy most about your role?

“I honestly never tire of seeing the relief and happiness our service brings with offering additional help with benefits and just generally helping our residents through what can be a confusing system.”

What do you wish more people knew about your role that they don’t know?

“We still find people not getting their full entitlements. Since the pandemic many people’s physical and mental health has deteriorated and I asked for this to be raised at our resident street meetings. Since then we have been able to identify many more residents who didn’t think they could claim for more.”

Why is it important we educate people on what they are entitled to?

“People should claim what they are entitled to, many don’t like to make claims or find the claim forms too confusing, but it really does make a difference to their quality of life, especially with the cost of living increasing. In 2021/22, we supported residents in claiming £4.9m in benefits. Please come and see us, it’s better to check than potentially miss out on years of assistance!”

If you wish to discuss this further, please contact your location reception desk and they will be able to provide the email and phone number for the relevant advisor.