Financial Capability Week 2017 is upon us! We have a dedicated Financial Capability Team in Newcastle to empower people to make the most of their money. But how exactly do we do that? In his blog, our Financial Capability Worker Phillip tells us what an average day for him looks like, and how he’s changing lives.

Hi, I’m Phillip, and I work for Changing Lives’ Financial Capability Team in Newcastle. We deliver this service in partnership with Oasis Aquila Housing, supporting people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to improve their financial capabilities and move on from poverty, chaos and hardship.

9:00am – My day starts at 9am when I attend one of our Changing Lives services to hold a drop-in. I check in with staff to see if any of the people I have been working with have asked to speak to me again, or whether there are any newbies that could do with some advice. I usually pop my head in to the kitchen where our clients hang out first thing too, to introduce myself and to see if anyone needs any help, letting them know what room I am working from.

9:45am – One of my regular clients is always first in the office, usually to give me a little update on  his debt issues that I have been trying to help him resolve. He is always really bubbly and we also have a chat about general things, including the football from the weekend.

After this appointment, a person comes to see me has come to see me who has had to give up their job and can’t afford their rent on housing benefit. They are quite stressed about not being able to pay the rent, their relationship with their landlord, and how this will affect their references if they want to get different accommodation in the future. I go through the options with the client and we agree to make a claim for Discretionary Housing Payments to make up the shortfall.

Next, a woman comes to see me who would like to know if they would be eligible for Personal Independence Payments. I go through the points system with her, and advise that, unfortunately, it is unlikely that she will score enough points to receive it. She is understandably disappointed as she’s heard of others receiving it who are in a similar position to herself. I try and manage her expectations and explain that other people may not have disclosed their full circumstances to her. For example, they may have other health conditions she doesn’t know about.

11:00am – When I have seen the last of my clients I go to the main office and provide the staff with an update of who I have seen and what I have done with them, making a note of any future work we may need to do with them.

“We’re aiming to plant the seed of financial capability […] with the hope that when people are ready to move on to independent living they will have a better understanding of their priority and non-priority debts.”

11:10am – I notice a client has text me saying that following a medical assessment, a decision has come back to move them on to a different benefit. I head over to the supported accommodation project he lives at to help him understand what this means for him.

11:30am – When I get to the accommodation project, my client is upset about the letter he has received. I explain the next steps and how to challenge the decision. We agree to write a Mandatory Reconsideration on his behalf.

12:15pm – Time for lunch in the office where I catch up with my supportive team leader and provide a recap of my day so far.

12:45pm – I begin researching things I can include in some training around financial inclusion we’re looking to deliver to residents in supported accommodation. We’re aiming to plant the seed of financial capability with this training, with the hope that when people are ready to move on to independent living they will have a better understanding of their priority and non-priority debts. Hopefully following the training they would be in a better place to sustain a tenancy.

“He is over the moon that in one year he will be debt free and will not have creditors chasing him. He sees it as a fresh start where he’ll will be able to continue his recovery.”

2pm – I’m supporting a client with their debts and have arranged an appointment with them at Newcastle Citizens Advice Bureau. We meet their debt advisor who explains the options open to them. The client agrees that given their level of debt that they would like to complete a Debt Relief Order. A Debt Relief Order is like a mini bankruptcy except it is much cheaper (£90) and there are some criteria that the client has to meet. When the client completes the Debt Relief Order his debts are frozen for one year, the creditors cannot chase him for the outstanding debt and if his circumstances have not improved after one year then the debts are written off.

We go for a coffee afterwards to discuss how the meeting went. He is over the moon that in one year he will be debt free and will not have creditors chasing him. He sees it as a fresh start where he’ll will be able to continue his recovery.

After work, I head off to the gym for a swim, to use the sauna and steam room to relax after a busy but fulfilling day.

Our Financial Capability Team is funded by the Money Advice Service, and works with adults across Tyne and Wear and Northumberland who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. If you, or someone you know, needs help, please contact Paul Kerr, Team Leader of our Financial Capability Team: paul.kerr@changing-lives.org.uk

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