Financial triage and debt advice
In 2014/15, an average of 7.29% of clients were referred to foodbanks because of debt problems. Our Financial Triage and Debt Advice project provides a framework through which foodbanks can assist in identifying and acting on the debt needs of individuals referred to the foodbank service.
It creates intentional links with a local advice agency and puts in place a triage process through which the urgency of the debt situation can be assessed and acted on appropriately, to ensure that the client engages with the help that they need.
We have formed links with Advice NI, Advice UK, Christians Against Poverty, Citizens Advice, Community Money Advice, Money Advice Trust, Payplan, Stepchange and Turn2Us, allowing foodbanks to use both in-house local advisors and national telephone and online help in delivering the project.
Trained volunteers engage in this process, and then provide appropriate signposting for additional help. Our hope is that foodbanks will be able to arrange for debt advice providers to be present in their foodbank centres, allowing support and advice to be provided immediately.
Between February and July 2015 The Trussell Trust ran a pilot project in eight foodbanks across the UK, generously funded by philanthropist and founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, Martin Lewis, allowing us to investigate the practicalities of foodbanks directly engaging with financial intervention.
The results of the study have been very positive, with many clients taking up the offer of immediate financial advice and 90% of them made significant progress after three months.
A client who spoke to a financial adviser at Cardiff foodbank said:
“Before I met the advisor at the foodbank I was too scared to go to the advice centre as I felt like such a fool. It feels like a weight off my shoulders, they are helping me do a weekly budget, which I have never done before.”
Martin Lewis is also thrilled with the success of the pilot:
“It was always my hope that this scheme would provide the financial equivalent to ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’ – and it seems to be doing just that. Just having someone to sit and talk to, who’s got a bit of authority and knowledge about a situation can make a massive difference and that’s what More Than Food is all about.”
Having seen a real benefit to the clients, all the pilot foodbanks wish to continue with this money management service and we are now developing an operating manual, with preparations under way to roll this service out across The Trussell Trust Foodbank Network.
We recognise that budgeting when you’re on a low, or no, income can be incredibly difficult and stressful. That’s why we’re working with money advice specialists to enable people who come to foodbanks struggling with financial difficulties to access expert help. This includes help managing or avoiding debt, help setting a budget and making sure that people are accessing any finance available through grants or benefits.
The Budgeting & Money Management project is based around a single meeting at a foodbank centre. Trained volunteers talk to foodbank clients about their budgeting capacity and financial situation, and providing a simple engagement at that point. This can then develop into additional longer-term work with that person, as they begin to take steps to resolve issues with their budgeting and financial capacity.