Debt advice changing lives in Coventry and Wirral

Group of people at community food setting

Debt advice changing lives in Coventry and Wirral

Published: 05 May 2022
With the support of £150,000 from Benefact Trust, Feeding Britain has been able to extend the reach of its Pathways from Poverty programme, by offering advice services for people on low incomes in Coventry and Wirral.
We caught up with Feeding Britain to see what the new advice workers had experienced in their first few months in post, and to hear what impact they were making already…
Making a real difference in Coventry

An advice worker has been working across three community food settings in Coventry since the start of 2022. From January to the end of March, 60 clients met with the advice worker for welfare support and debt advice, and 66% of people felt that their issues were resolved or on their way to being resolved after working with them. 11 clients reported financial gains because of this work, totalling over £32,600. 

One of the food settings is Foleshill Community Centre, which offers a social supermarket, holiday food, community meals and wider support for local households. Here the advice worker met a man in his sixties, who needed urgent support:
Mark (name changed for privacy) found his financial situation had become very precarious during the pandemic. His electricity was cut off and he had built up a lot of debt. He was also suffering with his mental health and was not able to work. 

When Mark first came to Foleshill Community Centre he was at risk of being evicted, and his physical and mental health was deteriorating rapidly. The advice worker first looked at his electricity bills and debt, and arranged payment of the outstanding bills. They then got him an appointment with the GP, who found that he had diabetes among other issues. As a result of further medical assessments, the Advice Worker successfully applied for him to receive the allowance for Limited Capability to Work and Personal Independence Payments. He also received a substantial back payment of benefits and is now receiving a high enough amount to cover his living expenses. 

Following a referral to the Learning Disability Team, Mark now has a support worker to help him with his everyday needs such as cooking, cleaning, washing and paying bills. His physical and mental health has improved significantly. He continues to come to the Foleshill Comminity Centre each week and has now started volunteering at the centre to support the project that supported him. 

He said: “The community centre is a unique place, it has been an exceptional experience for me.” 

The Foleshill Community Centre Manager said: “This is one of the best projects I’ve ever seen in terms of the impact it is having for people”.
Foleshill Community Centre
Increasing incomes in Wirral
An advice worker has been working across five community food settings in Wirral. From January to March, 113 clients met with the advice worker for support, with all clients seeing an improvement in their financial resilience following the intervention. Each seeing an increased household income of £7,911.80 (set to increase following decisions on benefits applications). 88% of clients saw an improvement in their individual or family wellbeing because of this intervention, and 16% reported a reduction in their household accessing food poverty services.

At one Affordable Food Club, the advice worker began helping a man whose Universal Credit payments had been sanctioned:

Tony (name changed for privacy) had built up many debts including his brother’s personal items that were being held at a local pawnbroker. Further investigations revealed that Tony had a diagnosis of schizophrenia with psychotic episodes. He had disengaged from his psychiatric clinic and GP surgery following a period in prison. The advice worker collated all details relating to debt, including rent and council tax arrears, and passed the information over to the debt management team within Involve Northwest. They contacted the local Jobcentre Plus and submitted a reconsideration against the decision to sanction him. Within three working days, Tony’s sanction was lifted and all monies reinstated. Tony received a repayment of over £2,000. He has now submitted a fitness for work note after engaging with his GP and is being fast tracked to the secondary mental health team. The client was able to retrieve his brothers’ belongings from the pawnbroker and is fully engaging with his family and support workers.
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