A project to give financial healthchecks to more than 200 vulnerable people in Brighton and Hove has left them £500,000 better off.
The project helped 232 people most of whom were women and people living in rented homes. About a third of the people who were helped had children, a quarter had a mental health problem and a fifth had a physical impairment.
Many of those who were given assistance, for example, in applying for benefits to which they were entitled, had said that they weren’t heating their home properly.
A majority were choosing between heating and food. And a quarter had problems with “priority” debts such as rent and council tax arrears.
Apart from help with benefits claims, they were also given help rescheduling debts or having them written off and even applying for grants.
Several of those given assistance expected annual increases in income as a result of the advice that they were given.
The healthchecks were co-ordinated by the Brighton and Hove Advice Strategy Project. It brought together a partnership of six established agencies
- Brighton Housing Trust (BHT)
- Money Advice and Community Support (MACS)
- Brighton and Hove Citizens Advice Bureau
- Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project
- The Fed Centre for Independent Living
- Age UK
Brighton and Hove City Council put in a bid for funds to the department, including £50,000 for the financial healthchecks.
Those most needing help were referred by a variety of local organisations including Sussex Central YMCA, the Rough Sleepers Team, St Peter’s Medical Centre, Mind in Brighton and Hove and the Hospital Social Work Team.
One of the people who was given help was a middle-aged single man who was suffering from severe depression and who had no local support network.
He had been claiming jobseeker’s allowance, which is for those who are fit and able to work. His benefit had been stopped after he failed to turn up for interviews at the job centre.
His financial healthcheck adviser persuaded the Department for Work and Pensions to lift the sanction on his jobseeker’s allowance.
The department acknowledged the man’s problems with depression and awarded him employment support allowance.
The adviser also successfully applied for a £300 charitable grant to help with his fuel arrears.
A report by Paul Sweeting, of the Brighton and Hove Advice Strategy Project, said that advisers recorded the confirmed and the likely impact of their work.
They noted £157,000 of confirmed improvements to the financial situation of those given help and more than £267,000 in likely improvements.
Mr Sweeting said: “The total impact from the £50,000 scheme on financially vulnerable residents’ circumstances was £500,260.”