A Unique & Dynamic Approach
When working with our clients the project seeks to provide advice/advocacy for the initial enquiry and to draw out further areas where a client can be assisted through the interview process and the direct benefit of seeing the client in their home environment. Therefore in the case of a client who presents a housing problem – i.e. being unable to exchange or transfer due to rent arrears – Advice is given on the housing issue and then a process of maximising income through benefit advice is carried out followed by debt counselling. Disability issues will also be addressed at this point.
Debt work is carried out using advanced debt management software which is taken into the clients home using laptop computers. This enables a high volume case load to be managed by each member of staff. The project works with client through to most court stages including administration order, composition order and bankruptcy.
The project has particular expertise in the area of home collected credit.
The project works with its clients to address debt but in many cases takes virtually complete control of the process in order to obtain much needed respite for those suffering with mental illness.
Results suggest that face-to-face money advice is a popular medium of delivery for those on low incomes, who are most likely to be experiencing financial exclusion.
Therefore, when looking to tackle problems of lack of access to money advice for the financially excluded, face-to-face delivery channels appear to be an effective way to reach the target group.Promoting Financial Inclusion 5:19 - HM Treasury 2004
Working with people
The projects aims to provide individuals and families with access to information that will improve their well-being and strengthen the social fabric of our community. This can only be achieved by working directly with people to encourage their financial independence through specialist advice and advocacy.
The project works with people in their own homes believing that this is an environment in which the client is comfortable and most able to give a clear picture of their circumstances. The benefits of taking this service to our clients are many and especially felt by those who find themselves isolated in their homes because of physical and/or mental disability, the aged and single parents who have the responsibility of small children. The project attempts to resolve issues surrounding welfare rights and debt whilst visiting clients bringing together the two disciplines of "Income Maximisation" and "Debt Counselling". There are obvious benefits of a home based advice service, the required information is generally at hand within the home and clients need not be sent away "to get that extra bit of information". Sitting and waiting for an interview with the apprehension of being seen by others is no longer a worry and for those with mental health problems the reassurance of being "on your own turf" gives that extra point of confidence.
Our approach to those suffering with mental health problems recognises the diverse needs of this client group. Assuring our client that they remain in control and are able to cancel appointments or reject our visit at any stage. Failed visits/appointments are accepted as part of the process in dealing with this client group but the offer of this level of service generally results in an increase in the clients confidence levels. The practical outworking of this approach is that visits are generally never cancelled or stopped half way and advisors are seen as friends with the sole aim of providing help and reassurance with financial matters.
In the provision of our service we utilise the latest technology to provide a fast, effiecient and effective service that supports our client directly at their point of need. We aim to send our first contact letters to creditors within 48 hours and are often able to send an offer letter to creditors immediately.
This use of technology helps us to meet the needs of our target groups, those who struggle to engage with advice services that are provided from a town centre office base. Long waiting times and a waiting room full of people can be a great obstacle to anyone suffering with mental health problems and especially the elderly who often comment on their inability to cope in this setting.
Working in partnership
The Walsall Money Advice Project seeks to provide a service to the general public in conjunction with our agencies and voluntary organisations and aims to compliment the work of other groups who work to relieve poverty in the community. The project is an active member of the Voluntary Organisations Liaison Group which, under the directions of the local Benefits Agency, meets to discuss issues facing the community and provides a forum for inter-agency working.
The most successful area of work has been the provision of debt counselling to clients suffering from mental health problems. These clients have often been excluded from advice due to their inability to use office based advice centres and because of a misplaced fear of their disability.
|Making a Referral:||The Project accepts referrals by letter, email, phone or fax and aims to arrange an appointment with the client with 5 working days. An advisor will visit the client to provide a welfare benefits assessment and/or assist with debt counselling. Other issues such as Employment Law, Housing, Energy Advice etc may also be discussed and where appropriate a referral to other specialist agencies may occur.|
|Training Provision:||The Project seeks to share its training resources with local groups and agencies. Our recent Housing Law training was provided by Shelter and many places were provided free of charge. This day of training on Housing Law / Homelessness had a special emphasis on vulnerable groups including offenders and those with dependancy problems.|
|Policy Support:||The Project seeks to share its policy and proceedures as resources with local groups and agencies. We believe that this information sharing helps to foster growth in the voluntary sector. If you would like copies of policies for the purpose of reproduction for your organisation we would be delighted to help.|
The Borough of Walsall is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural town. In line with the Walsall Money Advice Project's belief in the principles of social justice and the active promotion of genuine equal opportunity for all its citizens, the Project has committed itself to a policy of equality of opportunity, not only in its employment and personnel practices, but also in all the services for which it is responsible.
To ensure that this commitment becomes a reality, the Project is adopting a programme of action that seeks to eliminate unlawful and unfair discrimination and promotes positive action to overcome the effects of past discrimination.
Although the overall responsibility for achieving, promoting and providing equality of opportunity rests with the employer (the Walsall Money Advice Project) employees at every level have a responsibility to own and promote the Policy. The active co-operation of all employees is, therefore, essential for the success of the projects Equal Opportunities Policy. A copy of our Equal Opportunities policy is available on request.