MoneyFit frees vulnerable women from financial worries

The amount of debt in the UK is rising, with figures from the Money Advice Service estimating that more than 8million people are experiencing financial problems. Money can be a difficult and emotional subject to discuss, especially for those who are most vulnerable.

It can often seem impossible to break the cycle of financial worries, but thanks to the Lancashire Women’s Centre’s, this is changing. The team has been delivering one-to-one money, debt and benefit advice for almost a decade, initially starting as one day a week drop in service at its Accrington centre before securing Comic Relief funding to rapidly expand.

With demand for this service remaining remarkably high, the Lancashire Women’s Centre secured a further £17,000 grant from Newground Together, alongside support from other key partners, to continue delivering the financial advisory service named ‘MoneyFit’.

MoneyFit receives a huge demand for its services, with the team operating an average three-week wait time for an appointment.

Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), its experienced advisors provide a range of money management support, including advice around benefit rent arrears, budgeting and debts, as well as assistance with benefit applications, appeals and mandatory reconsiderations and back to work calculations.

“There’s such a big demand that we could employ another advisor today and have their diary instantly filled up with appointments,” explains Mandy Taylor, project manager at the Lancashire Women’s Centre. “The real success of this project has been our ability to offer both practical and emotional support for vulnerable women who often face multiple barriers when accessing mainstream services.”

The centre’s ability to link into other in house support to provide a well-round package of services and a safe place to seek help is adding real value and putting money back into people’s pockets who need it most.

One of the hundreds of women supported by the MoneyFit team was suffering a number of health conditions that required her to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, which she couldn’t afford to buy. The situation was taking a significant toll on her mental health, but with the team’s help to complete a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) form, she received a £8,286 payment and was over the moon at being able to buy real food and even have the money to buy a princess dress for her granddaughter, saying she feels ‘like a new woman’.

Another vulnerable woman was suffering physical, emotional and financial abuse by her partner and came to the centre seeking a way out. Without no income of her own and little awareness of what she could claim, the team supported her throughout a full income assessment and sought housing benefit to obtain a new property and furniture. Now in contact with victim support and awaiting counselling, the individual is receiving all the funding that she is entitled to and thanks to finding a new property, feels safer, less stressed and far happier for the future.

Another example of the team’s excellent work was helping an individual with mental health and physical issues who had been in receipt of Income Support for a number of years. The MoneyFit advisors supported her during the transition to claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), ensuring the application was descriptive and reflected the extent of her conditions. The lady received more than £13,000 in ESA and thanked the team for helping to reduce the stress that she felt during the application process, which was just as important as the financial outcome. 

To date, MoneyFit has put almost £600,000 back into people’s pockets across Lancashire by helping to write off debts, gain new grants and apply for income that they’re entitled to receive.

Of the 500 money advice sessions that have been held thanks to the funding from Newground Together, almost half of the people who were seen reported a reduction in stress.

Mandy continues: “The monetary benefit is an added bonus for us and instead, we’re more focussed on improving mental health, wellbeing and confidence and reducing vulnerability.

“We’ve received feedback from a few people who without access to our advice wouldn’t be here today and that’s what makes the project so special. It also isn’t just the individuals that we support but their wider families. We’ve helped more than 500 children receive a better start to life by helping parents and carers to better manage their money, stay out of debt in the future and have a better quality of life.”