For several weeks the Community Engagement Team has been undertaking a campaign in St Matthew’s ward, with partners to raise awareness of support services relating to benefits, debt, housing issues, loan sharks and energy costs. We are testing out a new, targeted way of providing information and access to services in a small geographic area.
We have deployed the Citizenzone and Community Engagement staff have taken to the streets to encourage people to access support and to hear about potential new energy saving schemes. We have undertaken 11 sessions to date in three different locations and have been concerned by the levels of hardship people are experiencing as a result of low paid employment or changes to the benefits system. 26 people have visited the Citizenzone and accessed direct support and over 40 people have been engaged on the street to learn more about what is available to them.
The issues we have encountered have been diverse and varied and range from high fuel costs associated with card meter repayments, ‘bedroom’ and council tax, rent payments and other debts, housing and employment needs and access to affordable credit and energy.
We intend to replicate this approach in other priority wards in Preston and hope to commit to a regular presence in St Matthew’s. The need is evident and we will endeavour to promote all manner of money saving schemes such as energy swaps, bill clinics and home surveys.
We will report in posts how the Council’s Financial Inclusion project will pave the way for the expansion of a new Credit Union next year. If you would like to join us or provide key messages from your organisation please email [email protected].