A casual conversation in the hairdresser’s last week opened my eyes to the financial obstacle course faced by those renting in today’s private sector.
Emily (not her real name) was having her hair trimmed in the chair next to me and was talking about her landlady’s decision to sell the house that Emily currently rents. Emily has been given the minimum notice period which in her case is 56 days but this is not a long time when you’re working full time and have 6 children attending 3 separate local schools.
Emily met her husband Carl five years ago, Carl was a single dad of three, Emily had two children of her own and they have since had one child together. Emily works full time and Carl works part time. They have been on social housing lists for the past five years but 4 bedroomed properties are few and housing rules state that they would be overcrowded in a 3 bedroomed house; they are also not deemed priority as they are not homeless – yet.
Their financial circumstances fit into Teresa May’s famous ‘Just About Managing’ group, however having to move will put them into serious debt.
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Completing our series of three blogs exploring some of the issues encountered by Just Finance - Alison Tsang, who works for JFF in London, says that how we view people with little money sometimes needs to be challenged.
A conversation with a priest recently brought into the spotlight something I’ve been pondering over for a while.
He told a tale of when he and his wife gave lodgings for a few weeks to a lady in his congregation who’d been left by her husband with three small children and no recourse to public funds. During this time, a conversation took place about how much she had to live on. “£60 a month”, she said.
What was this priest’s response? Not the response I was expecting.
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Liz Chadwick works for JFF in Newcastle and Northumberland. Here she describes the process of setting up a new credit union to serve a rural area.
Traditionally, credit unions have been small, non-profit financial organisations set up by members with something in common to benefit their community. That common factor may be living in a geographical area or working in the same organisation. This is known as a common bond.
The great strengths of a credit union is that it offers a reliable source of loans to the members along with a culture of saving.
Recently there have been changes in our area because the strengths of the credit unions also became weaknesses at the very time when demand became highest following the financial crash in 2008.
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Julia Webster is based in Liverpool and works for JFF:
"Interesting stat: 83% of people with a debt problem do not seek help! ....
Why is that? It would seem in today’s increasingly interconnected world access to debt advice and help has never been easier and yet 83% don’t access it. 83% - yes I will keep saying it because it gets more not less astonishing – 83% of people choosing to hide letters unopened in drawers, not answering calls from numbers they don’t recognise, getting up in the middle of the night to go to the cash machine before their creditors take payments, ignoring the persistent knocking on their front doors, and 83% suffering the stress, depression and anxiety that go hand in hand with debt.
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One of the things that strikes people as most shocking when they are new to the consumer debt field is that 5 in 6 people who are over-indebted and struggling to make repayments do not get help. The implied question is, why on earth wouldn’t you seek help when your debts are overwhelming and a source of debilitating stress and anxiety?
Part of the answer is, of course, obvious. Services are patchy. And while it seems sensible that they are centrally located - to share the benefits as widely as possible - the reality is that in poor areas, that leaves those most vulnerable without help. In one of the areas of Liverpool where Just Finance work the cost of getting the bus into town and back is £5. When every pound has to be accounted for, that’s simply too high.
This is why local Just Finance staff work with money advice services to increase their capacity, and by training specialist volunteers, create local pop ups and branches.
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In an article for the Society Guardian, Rowena Young considers the appointment of Guy Opperman as minister for Financial Inclusion and asks what he should prioritise:
What value a life? For Jerome Rogers, a 20 year-old motorcycle courier, it was painfully low. Within 24 hours of a visit from a bailiff, he was found by his brother and a friend to have hanged himself. The sum of his debts? Around £1,000, or a couple of weeks’ income on the average UK wage.
Tragically, he is no longer here to tell it, but stories like Jerome’s are to gain a new level of attention in Theresa May’s government. For this month saw the appointment of the UK’s first minister for financial inclusion.
The news came without fanfare or warning, but was most likely influenced by the Financial Inclusion Commission’s recommendation earlier this year that reform starts with “a senior minister as the government lead on financial inclusion and financial capability”. Guy Opperman MP is the man of the hour and has a longstanding interest in living wages, community businesses and regional banks. He also has responsibility at the DWP for pensions.
Opperman has much to do. In five areas of the UK, including Wales and Northern Ireland, more than half the population has savings of less than £100 and one in three adults has experienced a major financial shock in the last five years
Read the full article in the Society Guardian
Last year many individuals and churches responded to the Archbishop of Canterbury's call to help grow the Mustard Seed Appeal.
These generous donations helped to launch the Just Finance Foundation which aims to build a fair financial system: transforming the lives of those in financial crisis and encouraging a new generation who manage money wisely.
This year we're asking you to help us plant more seeds of hope so that we can grow the work of the JFF and transform the lives of people like Nicky.