Jo Robinson, Head of Income and Awards, Solihull MBC Financial Inclusion Briefing Soihull MBC presentation and Alison Hinds, Deputy Director, Children Services and Kate Lees , Strengthening Families, Partnership Manager, Wolverhampton City Council shared their current strategy and approach to financial inclusion and the joined up approach being taken through their local Financial Inclusion Partnership. The timeframe within which Local Authorities are expected to distribute the short term Government funding programmes is tight and undermines an investment in sustaining a longer term approach. Both Local Authorities were seeking how they could move towards a more preventative strategy and test our new ideas. An emphasis on close working with voluntary and community sector organisations that have reach into particular communities was evident in the Wolverhampton City Council approach.
Gateway Family Services and Citizen Advice Birmingham, both longstanding voluntary organisations, have a history of supporting financial inclusion of vulnerable individuals and families. Evidence from their services and casework was presented. Katherine Hewitt, Chief Executive, Gateway Family Service highlighted unprecedented levels of basic needs such as food, fuel, clothing travel costs. Families in temporary accommodation has grown and are disproportionately impacted with growing mental health issues. A copy of the presentation can be found here. Anne Gilford, Help to Claim Best Practice Lead, Citizen Advice Birmingham highlighted a growing demand for advice and advocacy support from a changing profile of people needing services: more women, and a younger age profile of under 35s, people in work but on low income, self employed and those with no Recourse to Public Funds. A copy of the presentation can be found here. For both organisations they are seeing a difficulty of vulnerable households and individuals taking up preventative services.
Rachel Jones, Chief Executive, Act on Energy shared the increase in fuel poverty and fuel debt. Though their services have increased from 10 staff to 26 staff during the period of the pandemic, supported to some extent through funding from Government programmes – much of this is short term and not about longer term income maximisation to prevent ongoing financial exclusion. Christopher Connor, Lead officer, Illegal Lending Team, hosted at Birmingham City Council is part of a national initiative of 70 staff across England to investigate, arrest and prosecute loan sharks. From their case work, nearly 50% of borrowers from illegal lenders had household income of less than £15,000pa and nearly 50% were seeking work and 45% were parents with children. A copy of his presentation can be found here.
A recording of the Briefing session can be found here.