An innovative money advice scheme run by a housing association in Daventry has already helped people save an estimated £229,000.
The money advice service, introduced by Futures Housing Group (formerly Daventry and District Housing), helps people who are struggling financially to access benefits they may be entitled to, reduce fuel bills and budget for the future.
Customers can book an appointment themselves or be referred by other Futures employees, such as housing or income officers.
Since its launch, the money advice team has helped 82 customers with 74 people making face-to-face appointments.
The most significant savings include a £1,910 water bill and a £1,635 tax credit debt that have been written off. A total of six people have been referred to a foodbank and a successful charity grant application helped one customer receive a washing machine.
Another customer who is extremely grateful for the service is 81-year-old William Craib, who faced financial uncertainty when his beloved wife, Isabella, passed away earlier this year.
Speaking in his Daventry home - exactly 39 years to the day he and Isabella first moved in - Mr Craib explained how, thanks to Futures, his financial worries evaporated and his income significantly improved.
“I wanted to be able do these things myself but I didn’t know where to start,” he said.
As with many men of his generation, William left financial matters to his wife to take care of. That meant that when the bills and reminder letters landed through the letter box and the phone calls started, he didn’t know where to turn.
“I’m not a money man. Isabella always took care of that side of things. She paid the rent, the council tax, everything. In fact, for as long as we were together, I didn’t even know the pin number for her bank card.”
Mr Craib’s daughter, Roberta, lives just around the corner and helps as much as she can, preparing meals and visiting every day. However, they needed extra help to get the financial affairs sorted.
“Roberta has been a rock for me and even lent me money to pay for half of my wife’s funeral, said William.
“She tried to help as much as she could but we had problems sorting out the death certificate and struggled to fill in forms.
“Money was the biggest problem, though. I was so worried about it. I didn’t want to get into trouble and I knew that these problems couldn’t be fixed unless I faced up to them.”
Thankfully for William, help was at hand. Futures’ Housing Officer Cara Wilkinson visited and explained his options before referring him to the organisation’s money advice service. That’s when Futures’ Income Officer, Sophie Bothwell, stepped in and helped him access the benefits he was entitled to.
“Sophie and Cara have been marvellous,” said Mr Craib.
“Sophie does all my work! At the beginning she sat down and explained it all. We hadn’t been able to get anything at all. All these letters were coming through and I knew there were bills that needed paying. It was a very upsetting time.”
William has lived in Daventry for 41 years and worked right up until his retirement last year. His roles included caretaker at a local school and working for Tesco. His wife was also in full-time employment until she became unwell in January 2015 and that’s when William stopped work to care for her.
Thanks to Futures, Mr Craib has been able to gain extra income, make significant savings on regular bills and receive support in sorting financial issues.
“I’m so grateful for everything Futures has done for me,” he said.
“Without Cara and Sophie’s help I wouldn’t be living here now. I’d probably be in a home. I just can’t fault what they’ve done for me.”
William’s advice to other customers experiencing financial difficulties is that help is at hand and honesty is the best policy.
“You just need to tell the truth, he said.
“Be honest about how you feel, what you need help with and how much money you have. They need to know what your income is so that they can help you. Don’t be frightened to tell them everything.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but they’ve helped me with things I hadn’t even thought about. It’s great to know that everything is taken care of. It’s a massive weight off my mind and I feel really, really safe now.
“I don’t feel unsure about the future and I’m a lot happier. I would really recommend Futures’ money advice service. They are good, good people.”
For more information on Futures’ money advice service or to book an appointment, call 0300 456 2531 or visit www.futureshg.co.uk