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  Projects - Addressing barriers  
 
Welfare benefit, advice service
& debt advice

Service provides residents in the local community mainly East HamWard and surrounding area with advice and assistance, focusing especially on welfare rights, housing and utility. The Service is busy and well used, providing a lifeline to many clients – particularly those who struggle in accessing rights through lack of knowledge and language barriers. Advice is available for one day a week (This is funded by People Health Trust) through appointments, supplemented by telephone advice and home visits

We have seen an increase in the number of people booking appointments for debt advice and welfare advice at the start of November 2013. We started advertising this project locally during October and November 13.

The welfare advice and debt service aims to help our local residents particularly those affected by rent arrears, council tax arrears, utilities bill issues, bank credit card arrears, threat of losing their house because of issues with mortgage, bailiff, low income & debt / redundancy, benefit delay, cut or change, domestic violence / mental health, bereavement, difficulty interpreting energy bills, housing, bedroom tax, council tax issues, changes to welfare system. The most commonly reported financial benefits arose from unclaimed benefit income and from help with managing debt.

Characteristics of Service

Individuals were advised about benefit entitlement.
Practical assistance with completing forms, reply to debt letters.
No longer had to cope alone with complex benefits system.
Expert advice, timed to suit individuals.

Our clients whose income increased demonstrated that they felt greater levels of:

Independence.
Dignity.
Participation.
Identity.
82% of respondents worried less about making ends meet, 78% felt happier than before, and 47% felt they had more self-respect.

19 people whose benefits had been increased after advice and found that – over half stated that they were better able to pay bills, nearly half stated that they used transport more and over a third stated that could now eat more and/or better food, 52% of participants spent more on fuel and 76% more on food.

We appointed a Community Money Advice, Qualified Debt Advisor from Bonny Downs Community Association to deliver debt advice work every week. So far our Welfare advice and guidance and debt advice worker has seen 26 clients (8 for debt advice and 18 for welfare advice). The Debt advisor sees between two to three clients a week and welfare advocacy sees 4 to 5 clients every week. Clients are mostly seen face-to-face. Help is provided to people to manage their debts and arrange repayment plans. Most clients can be called financially vulnerable and are on low income or on benefits. Clients tend to be in debt with a range of organisations such as – loan companies like high street banks, loan sharks, hire purchase firms such as Bright house. They also typically owe rent, council tax and utilities. At this point of the project we can say that the project has had the following impacts-

The project reduces debt and increases household income: the project has reduced rent arrears by a total of £9,552 and increased household income by £19,959 through unclaimed entitlements. To a population who on average live on or just under the poverty line, this represents significant savings and household contributions.

Through this project 8 out of 12 clients who also accessed food bank due to debt issues and welfare benefit issues currently do not access food bank any more as a result of our advice.

Some common issues we address under our welfare benefits and guidance:

Low Income & Debt / Redundancy.
Benefit Delay, Cut or Change.
Domestic Violence / Mental Health.
Bereavement.
Difficulty interpreting energy bills.
Housing, bedroom tax, council tax issues, changes to welfare system.
Our Advocacy service:

Supporting residents – We are here to support.
Qualified guidance officer, one to one appointments (Friday 10 to 3pm).
Non judgemental, committed.
Advice on benefits, energy bills, council tax, housing benefit, Job seekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance.
Help to make money go further.
Help on specific elements of welfare reform.
Further support / crisis Support for those particularly affected ( Food bank) .
Third sector/charities referrals and partnership.
Our Training: Conversational English and Computer Course:

Our ICT class, conversational English class supports integration and community cohesion. Lack of English language skills and basic IT skills forces people to rely more on their own families and communities to interpret for them, restricting their access to services and resulting in the segregation of communities.

English language skills are required to operate and play a full part in society – from correctly accessing NHS and local authority services to interacting with neighbours and volunteering in their community.

A key aim of our class is to create learning communities where everyone is equal and has valuable experience to contribute. Both IT and English tutor bring expertise in teaching and community cohesion; while the learners contribute the experience and knowledge they have accrued through their own unique and complex lives.

Through this project, learners improved their speaking, listening, reading and writing skills in English. Also learners are able to access online forms, send emails, type letters using laptops. Both ICT and English class learning activities are embedded in the context of everyday topics, such as shopping and using local services. The intention is that learners will, therefore, also develop confidence to take part in community-based activities and social tasks (including online), such as talking to shop assistants, navigating through council website, using universal job match website to find jobs and going to their local library. Our IT and English class helps Immigrants improve their English, immigrants to find work, help students cope with native speakers, teaches opportunities, rights & responsibilities, environment that promotes racial tolerance and multiculturalism, classes provide immigrants with a chance to heal, training helps in alleviation of poverty.
Because of huge demand with Conversational English Class, we approached Tindar foundation and they kindly funded us with £7000 to run another 4 batch of English Class through Learn English My Way programme.

The very very important aspect of our project is that 49 people access English class and out of the 49 clients who access English Class 38 people access ICT class. Out of the 49 people from English class 31 access welfare advice and 24 access career advice and 19 access debt advice.
The above statistics does not cover other individual users. This shows the one stop solution and the need for support in one place is very important to break barriers. As barriers are not associated with single issues it is multiple issue and we are proud to address multiple issues.
Through our career advice session, we designed a series of work-focused sessions covering topics including UK qualifications, further and higher education opportunities, apprenticeships and career opportunities. Participants were taken to places of work, (Example: Visit to Community Garden Cafe and see different types of customer care work placement opportunities) study and training ( 3 visits made to Newham College and UEL) to widen aspirations and knowledge. In order to break down stereotypes, women in atypical roles were invited to deliver talks at during career awareness session to improve confidence and be inspired. Perceived barriers are addressed by encouraging participants to ask questions about working in those job roles and about any wider concerns they had, such as managing a work-life balance. So far 16 clients gained job as a result of combined English class, welfare advice, IT class and Career Advice. 9 of them got work experience opportunities.

Conversational English Class

Qualified & committed tutor.
Immigrants improve their English.
Help immigrants to find work.
Help students cope with native speakers.
Teaches opportunities, rights & responsibilities.
Environment that promotes racial tolerance and multiculturalism.
Classes provide immigrants with a chance to heal.
Training helps in alleviation of poverty.
Computer class: Why Computer classes?

Goods & services that people will buy online by 2016 worth – £221 billion.
Average saving per household estimated at £560 per year just by shopping and paying bills online.
2% of employers say they would not interview an entry level candidate without basic IT skills.
Getting online will benefit the 75,000 jobseekers allowance claimants who currently have never been online.
Getting online increases potential to improve lifetime earnings by £8,300.
People with good IT skills earn between 3% and 10% more than those without.
Money Management Work shop:

We delivered our Money Management workshop for people who are accessing Food Bank, people who are already accessing welfare benefit advice, debt advice sessions, people who come to our Spoken English class, Computer class and who are on Job Seekers Allowance. During our service we see people facing eviction, access food bank more than three times in 2 months time,clients who stay behind to take away( pack)refreshments that are left over for their children, who are really struggling to make ends meet. Although we’ve seen some signs of economic recovery since we launched our Local Community Transition project in October 2013, the squeeze on budget for our disadvantaged service users and local communities has continued.Also our during project steering group meetings,staff and volunteers reports that they see a clear indication that there’s a significant gap in service users knowledge about money management and also with budgeting.
Giving people the most valuable possession there is Knowledge.

It’s not just a lack of money that keeps people trapped in poverty. It’s a lack of knowledge. That might be not knowing what their rights are when you’ve been made redundant from work. Or not understanding how changes to welfare benefits will affect you. So for these people who we encounter face fear of debts, fear of loosing home, lack of knowledge about savings and ways to maximise income and reduce expenditure.

Through our workshop we delivered 2 money management skills training so that they are aware of different ways to address the money issues.This workshop aimed at people who are accessing Food Bank, welfare advice, debt advice will be able to change about how they manage money for example;change how they plan for future spending, set up a budget to help you manage money,change how they borrow money and save money.

We appointed Experienced Teach Others Money- Qualified Adult Financial Capability (Open College
Network – Level 3) person to deliver this work shop. So far we delivered 2 work shop and one more work shop is due to be conducted and job centre requested us to deliver this at Plaistow Job centre.

After attending this workshop, users are be able to:

Describe their attitudes to money and identify their strengths/weaknesses in managing money.
Identify the difference between needs and wants when it comes to spending and what these are.
Identify what are priority bills and the consequences of not paying these bills.
Identify ways to make money go further.
Keep track of spending using a spending diary.
Describe some of the benefits of having a bank account.
Describe the main types of bank accounts that are available.
Identify sources of more affordable credit.
Use APRs and AERs to make informed choices when borrowing and saving.
Describe some of the benefits of budgeting.
Convert figures from one time frame to another to put in a budget sheet.
Complete a budget sheet.
Describe how and where they might save.
Identify further sources of information and help on money matters.
Job Club

Bonny Downs Community Association was successful in funding application to Togethers in Service funding to launch a weekly drop-in support service to help local residents complete online job searches.

The Job Centre now requires all Job Seekers’ Allowance claimants to prove they are looking for work by logging into a specific online portal and completing a complicated application tracking process. However the Job Centre provides no support to individuals who have English as an additional language, poor IT skills or no internet access. If their job search process is not followed, claimants are sanctioned by immediate termination of payments. This unjust system drives vulnerable local residents into problem debt, stress and food poverty. There are no other groups in the East Ham South area of Newham who offer the proposed regular online job search support service so there is clear need to fill this gap in provision.

To deliver this project BDCA partnered with Skills Enterprise to offer advice and training for local residents with ‘high barriers to employment’, particularly elders and residents from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.
As we are a ‘UK Online Centre’ through this funding they are able to pay weekly drop in online job search support session.

We have so far trained up to 20 local volunteers to help run the online job search support sessions. The volunteers gain a Digital Champion UK certificate accredited by UK Online centre and work experience which will also help boost their own employability.

We will accept referrals from our local Job Centre and the BDCA team will signpost relevant users that they meet through their existing projects.

 
A model that works
Our focus is on supporting disadvantaged people, adults and families who can be hard to reach through conventional statutory service support. Our approach is therefore based on three key principals.

Accessibility
Making it easy for people to access support by bringing services together and delivering a friendly and sensitive service locally.

Integrated Services
Offering a broad holistic range of services so people can find help for both their most immediate problems and longer term deep-seated issues.

Long Journeys
Encouraging people to gradually build up the skills and confidence they need to progress in life and build a positive future for their families.

Each month, we support over 20 people to learn new skills, find employment, improve their health and wellbeing and develop the confidence to achieve their goals.

At the heart of the model is the phrase “assume it’s possible”. This encapsulates a determination to ensure that everyone who engages with the Centre is enabled to reach their full potential. Key to this is the way Centre staff support individuals, both formally and informally, over many years. The end result is people achieving changes in their lives and circumstances that they never dreamed were possible when they first arrived.

   
 
   Solutions
  • Local Community Transition Initiative Project

  • Conversational English Class.
    ICT Classes

  • Welfare benefits and guidance

  • Debt advice

  • Career Advice and guidance

Team
The Skills Enterprise team is made up of comprises 5 trustees, 1 Part-time Projects Manager, 1 Admin Assistant, 8 Digital champions (volunteers), 12 Steering group members & 18 volunteers.25 part time staff, 21 sessional staff and 56 active volunteers.

Together we represent a wide range of ages, cultures, religions, ethnicities and walks of life. But the thing that unites us is our shared passion for working together to Break the Barriers.

 

 

 

 

 
   
 
     

Skills Enterprise