A few days before my first Universal Credit payment, they told me how much I was going to get. I was gutted. I just wanted enough to pay my rent. All the rent arrears and council tax have built up now. Things are on top of us, I’m at my last tether, I don’t know what to do.

Anonymised tenant’s story, as told to Shift

The Challenge

Being in a financial position to withstand whatever life throws at you (be it a funeral or broken down boiler) is difficult, particularly for low income households. For those living in social housing, their Housing Association can play a pivotal role in building their financial resilience. One Manchester has over 12,000 properties and wants to innovate their services so they were taking a more proactive approach to helping tenants prepare for financial shocks.

One Manchester are delighted to be working with Shift to increase the financial resilience of our tenants and develop services to support them.

Issy Taylor, Group Head of Strategy & Business Development, One Manchester

What we did


We built up a nuanced picture of what life is like for their tenants, so the team can see them as individuals, understand their pressures and have a picture of the complex factors that lead to debt. We did this through in home interviews with tenants and brought it to life by writing letters from tenants addressed to team members at One Manchester, and producing a series of illustrated tenant stories.


To help tenants to avoid finding the transition to Universal Credit the massive financial shock that it can be, we used tenant data to segment people by the circumstances that triggered a move onto Universal Credit. This allowed One Manchester to take a more targeted approach to supporting people in different scenarios who were moving onto the new benefits system.


We developed a Universal Credit survival pack. Research revealed tenants don’t know what pockets of support are available to them, and support varies widely based on where you are in the country. The pack highlighted hyperlocal suggestions of support they could take advantage of, framed in a non patronising, informative tone.

Key results

  • Major shift in the team’s understanding of tenants’ lives from a set of materials that organically circulated the organisation
  • Front line workers in different departments working together and breaking down silos, as the research revealed the connected roles they played in a tenant’s experience of their housing association
  • The number of tenants who engaged with One Manchester as a direct result of The Universal Credit Survival Pack increased to 79% (from 37% – more than double).