Focus on: Debbie Monaghan

Welfare Benefits Team Leader, Debbie, on the phone to a customer

Debbie has worked in the Welfare Benefits team at Grand Union for the past five years, where she helps our customers, who may be experiencing extremely traumatic times, receive money they are entitled to. Her job is more than simply helping customers with filling out forms, she provides a friendly ear over the phone and supports people from all walks of life.

Debbie said: “I head up the Welfare Benefits team, as a team leader, and I’ve worked at Grand Union for five years. While there’s a misconception that my team merely fill out forms, we have a whole host of duties, from writing applications, to assisting at tribunals, and we pride ourselves in helping customers in the most vulnerable situations.”

An unjust stigma

“There’s an unjust stigma too often associated with the work we do in the Welfare Benefits team, but I remind all of the customers I speak to that we help them claim exactly what they deserve; the money is an entitlement, more than it is a benefit.

I feel very priveleged to work at Grand Union; it’s not obligatory for housing associations to have a welfare benefits team, so I feel we offer our customers a great deal of extra support.”

Helping those in crisis

“I like to think when customers call, I’m a friendly person on the end of the phone. I help those who are vulnerable or living with a disability claim money which they are entitled to, which in turn helps them to maintain their tenancy. I also support people who may have lost their jobs. Unsurprisingly, the Coronavirus pandemic has brought its own set of challenges and a large amount of customers have needed our guidance.

Some of our customers may have worked all their lives and, suddenly, experienced a life-changing injury such as a stroke, meaning they can no longer work, and their spouse may have to become a full-time carer. At a time when people need help and advice, we’re available to lend an ear and to help fight their corners.”

Debbie’s varied and talented team

“Before this position, I worked in a money advice team with a local council which, incidentally, is now funded by Grand Union! I also worked as a mental health support worker, which definitely helps me in my role now, knowing about the impact that poor mental health can have on families and individuals.

I manage four people in my team and we have a breadth of experience between us – from working for Macmillan Cancer Support and the Department of Work and Pensions – which benefits us in our work, helping a wide range of individuals. One of my colleagues is also a trained Mental Health champion, which really helps when we speak to those struggling with their mental health.

We also work closely with the Money Advice team – helping our customers learn more about their finances. It’s a challenging but extremely rewarding job and I feel a great sense of purpose when I wake up in the morning.”