Introducing Free Money Advice Service across Mid-Devon
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Fuel poverty in Devon is above the national average, with 1 in 5 rural households classed as fuel poor in the county. In recent years there has been a focus from central government to reduce fuel poverty by making grants available, however increasing fuel prices have meant that numbers in fuel poverty continue to rise. Fuel poverty disproportionately affects older households, and rural districts of Devon where the housing stock is older and incomes are generally lower. In Devon 5,934 households (19%) spent more than 10% of their income on heating their homes – the benchmark of fuel poverty. Source: Devon County Council Healthy Housing Needs Survey 2012
Many families living in Mid-Devon are dealing with financial hardship; possibly as a result of illness, disability, changes in benefits entitlement or because of difficulties with budgeting and financial literacy. The impact of debt and living on a low income can be devastating; it can break relationships, be the cause of anxiety and depression and exacerbate underlying mental illnesses.
With this in mind, I would like to introduce myself, Jan Richards, in my role with Wiser£money, a not-for-profit partnership which is providing a new Free Money advice service in Mid-Devon. The project is funded by the British Gas Energy Trust and will run initially for for 12 months.
This one year project will focus on mitigating the impact of fuel poverty and building household and community resilience within rural settlements of West Somerset, Mid Devon and North Devon, areas linked by high levels of rurality, low income and fuel poverty.
The services will be delivered by Money Advice Caseworkers and, where appropriate, support will be provided by MIND Mental Health Support Workers. The project will be located in the heart of rural communities and will be accessed through a combination of appointments and drop in services; home visits will be a priority for the people most at risk from the factors that lead to fuel poverty.
A key focus on the service will be home visits for clients unable to access central services and people living off gas, in properties rated under EPC “C” and/or solid wall construction
Advice will focus on:
· Fuel poverty, energy efficiency issues and switching
· Debt & money advice
· Income maximisation/ Welfare benefits
· Mental Health advocacy and support
· Form filling
· Referral & signposting – this is a key element of the project, to refer and signpost to organisations providing energy efficiency and fuel poverty work.
About Wiser£money/ Partnerships & Collaborative Working;
Established in 2012, Wiser£money is a strategic partnership between Wessex Resolutions, a Community Interest Company, and Encompass Southwest, a registered charity and company limited by guarantee. Wiser£money delivers advice, information and support services in rural and coastal communities and market towns across Devon and Somerset. The partnership provides accessible, holistic services aimed at vulnerable people who are experiencing financial exclusion, poverty and hardship.