24 October 2014

Free money advice service helps avoid loan sharks

A new free money advice service for residents backed by Brighton & Hove City Council has been launched called Moneyworks which is designed to help the most vulnerable in the city deal with debt, manage money better, and avoid unscrupulous loan sharks.

A whole range of local agencies are involved including the Money Advice and Community Support (MACS) which has brought in £670,000 financial benefits to tenants. The service has helped hundreds of Brighton and Hove council tenants access unclaimed or additional benefits, charitable payments, savings on household bills and write-off or reschedule debts.

Paul (not his real name) benefited from the MACS service. He said: “They did a lot. I’m happy I went along to the appointment. It took a lot of persuading to get me to go, but I am glad I did. Your help was very quick and you helped me to help myself again.”

Moneyworks Partnership spokesperson Paul Sweeting, said: “The cost of living has increased greatly over the last few years and many of our residents are really starting to feel the strain. We are now in a position to offer real practical help.”

Councillor Bill Randall, Chair of Housing for Brighton & Hove City Council said:

“This partnership of local agencies* offers a real alternative to payday loans and the crippling interest rates that go with them. When Universal Credit is introduced thousands of people will be paying council tax for the first time and having to budget a month ahead rather than a week, they will also need to open and use a bank account for the first time.

"Everything will be online which is going to prove very problematic for those who do not own computers or know how to access them. Moneyworks has a range of our best education providers across the city which will be running IT skills training and offering free computer access.”

Residents can get advice on a whole range of money issues by calling the Moneyworks Advice Line on 01273 809288 between 10am to 3pm Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 5pm to 8pm on Wednesday, or 10am to 1pm on Friday.

The partnership is currently finalising details of drop-in sessions that will run across the city. Further details will be made available at Moneyworks

More information:

Partnership members:

*Moneyworks partners include: Brighton & Hove City Council, Brighton and Hove Citizens Advice Bureau, Money Advice and Community Support (MACS), East Sussex Credit Union, The Whitehawk Inn, The Bridge, The Hangleton and Knoll Project, Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project, The Brighton & Hove

Federation of Federation of Disabled People, The Woman’s Centre and Toynbee Hall.

CASE STUDIES:

Lulu Russell, Project Co-ordinator for the Hangleton & Knoll Project said:

“In the last year we have piloted a community project where residents could drop in on a Thursday morning for financial advice and IT help. We found that most people were reticent to talk about money initially; it was only after a few sessions that they really opened up. I think the perceived sense of failure is one of the biggest barriers for agencies to tackle.

However, over the year it did improve with 58% of our attendees saving money on bills, and 42% saying they had boosted their income through the internet. “

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Nicky Plummer of the East Sussex Credit Union said, “Our £90,000 funding from the council has given us the flexibility to lend money straight away rather than joiners having to wait up to 2 months while they save for a deposit. During the last year 131 residents have joined and between them have saved 114,430. These are people that have never saved before. All our loans have a compulsory saving element, which helps to make people more resilient when the next crisis comes along.”

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Jackie Grigg, Director of Brighton based Money and Community Support said:

“One recent caller to the Moneyworks Helpline said: “I was really worried about falling behind with my utility bills and had taken out a loan I knew I couldn’t afford to repay. The help I got from talking to the advice line was very reassuring, and I’ve now been able the first steps towards sorting my financial situation out”