Building financially healthy communities in East Midlands

18 Jul 2016 By Rebecca Simpson, Financial Health Exchange

On 28th June we held our third event in our ‘Building Financially Healthy Communities’ series.  Hosted at the Mansfield Central Library in Nottinghamshire, the aim of the event was to facilitate an effective conversation about how we can build the financial health of our communities, really challenge our thinking about what works, and tease out examples of effective practice from the people in the room.

We invited three guest speakers to talk to us about the ways they are working to solve complex problems which are having an impact on the financial health of their communities. We were fortunate to hear from the Darlington Credit Union, Quaker Social Action, and St Ann’s Advice Group – who have really honed in on areas of need in their communities and responded in a way that tackles both individual need but also addresses wider systemic barriers. There were a few things in particular we took away from the day:

Young people’s aspirations are key to financial health work

Tony Brockley and Selina Tsang from Darlington Credit Union introduced us to MoneySmart, a programme funded by RBS Skills and Opportunities Fund. MoneySmart is Darlington credit union’s financial health scheme for vulnerable people which provides one-to-one money management support to help people develop the skills they need to become more financially aware and included. The scheme also runs financial education workshops for those aged 15 and over, working in partnership with schools and colleges.  MoneySmart emerged from the success of MoneyWorks, which found that the majority of people attending 121 support were over 25.  The young people’s component of MoneySmart, called ‘Young Savers’ aims to be a ‘proactive not reactive approach to financial education’. In order to work with young people more effectively, they knew they had to understand better young people’s needs.  They found that young people often didn’t know what their financial challenges would be in the future as much of that future was uncertain, but that didn’t mean they were short of any aspiration.  What makes MoneySmart engaging to young people is that it’s realistic and applies to their real life – financial matters become the means to a greater end.  Tony expressed that there was a cost to the credit union to being involved in schools, but to them it was worth it in order to invest in the future.  Ultimately, if MoneySmart is successful, young people go into adulthood savvy and astute and projects like MoneyWorks will no longer be needed.

You can download their presentation here.

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Funeral poverty is a major problem in the UK which requires systemic change

Fiona Singleton from Quaker Social Action’s Down to Earth programme raised our awareness that there is a funeral poverty crisis in the UK. The funeral service industry is one that takes advantage of the fact that when it comes time to make decisions about a funeral, the consumer is often not in a state to be able to shop around and search for the best deal.  This is exasperated by the fact that prices in the industry have soared by 92.3% over the last 10 years. The average funeral now costs nearly £4,000. ‘Who has that kind of money lying around?’ Fiona asked.  To illustrate this point, Fiona told us the story about a mother, planning a funeral for her son, being offered a coffin that was £3,000, with no explanation that there were cheaper options available. Most funeral directors do not provide prices online, making it difficult for consumers to be informed about their options.  This is the first crucial line of support that QSA’s Down to Earth offers – they help people to understand their options and make choices without unscrupulous firms preying on their emotional state.  They talk practicalities with people and help them manage these decisions.  But more needs to be done.  QSA have launched a Fair Funeral campaign in order to work with the industry, influence government, and train national providers on tackling funeral poverty. They are asking firms in the industry to sign up to their Fair Funeral Pledge – which 560 funeral directors have signed so far.  By signing up they agree to recognise that funerals can be expensive and many people struggle with the cost, to help people find funerals that are within their means, and to be open about their most affordable options, including third party costs:

  • In initial conversations
  • Within their price lists
  • On their website

QSA can take referrals from across the country, but they also provide training and resources to ensure that other organisations and front line works can be equipped to help their service users access fair funerals.

You can download the presentation here.

Find out more about QSA’s Down to Earth programme and their Fair Funerals Campaign.

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Quality and integrity of service is more important than targets

Finally, we were joined by Debbie Webster from St. Ann’s Advice Group, who is leading on the bid for Money Sorted D2N2 – a Derby and Nottingham network for sustainable financial health delivery with funding from European Structural and Investment Fund.  The project has brought together a consortium of organisations with different areas of expertise (employment, financial health, drug and alcohol recovery, etc.) in order to bid for a larger contract which enables them to tackle social exclusion and poverty more holistically. Money Sorted in D2N2 is about excluded people. It offers a 6-month programme of person-centred support and a range of bespoke interventions designed to enable people experiencing financial crisis and financial hardship to take control, build confidence, tackle their problems and move out of poverty and exclusion.  The bespoke interventions are delivered through ‘Personal Navigators’ who are based across the region and operate from the partner organisations.  Personal Navigators assess the individual’s needs, deal with immediate crises, and open up opportunities and other pathways based on the individual’s own personalised plan.

The ethos which underpins the D2N2 programme is that the most important thing is that clients are treated as human beings and not numbers.  This means that the project has little pressure target wise and has deliberately moved away from focusing on organisational management and structure, to focus instead on the quality and integrity of service delivery and letting the specialists lead in their areas of expertise.

Download Debbie’s presentation here.

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Organisational communication is just as important as communication with clients

 During our workshop ‘Financial capability and the role of communication’ we explored how effective organisational communication can have an impact (both good and bad) on our client’s financial health.  For example, some organisations make an effort to train and educate other departments within the organisation about financial inclusion and raise awareness of the services (both internally and externally) available to support people with money so that an opportunity to signpost a client is never missed. Participants on the day shared examples of how a lack of communication internally led to service users not being aware of or signposted to services that could help – for example where there were partnerships with local credit unions or debt advice agencies. Communication is also crucial to maintaining partnerships as they rely on organisations feeding in so that the partnership can then feed out.  Communication needs to be strategic in order to ensure the right information is getting to the right people at the right time.

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Download our infographics from the ‘Financial Capability and the role of communication’ workshop and the ‘Beating the Poverty Premium’ workshop.

Thank you to all those who attended and participated – it was a fantastic event with a lot of stimulating discussion and activity.

See photos from the event on our Facebook page.

We are currently in the process of developing our schedule of events for the Autumn, so watch this space!

Resources from all our events so far can be found here.