developing communities, changing lives

Small changes to save money.

Posted on 22nd July 2014 by · No comments

5 coins stacked on top of each other

Birmingham Settlement partner Severn Trent Trust Fund (STTF) has been running a campaign called #smallchange on social media to share some little practical tips that can help you to save your money. The idea is that making small changes in your daily life needn’t be difficult and can have a big impact on the money you have available.

Some of our favourite tips shared so far include:

  • Allocate a budget for the week and take it out in cash. Paying with tangible money makes you think about what you spend.
  • Make a shopping list before you food shop, it avoids impulse buys so you only get what you really need.
  • Ditch the ready meals and start making bargain dinners by hand – think soup, or pasta and veg.
  • Don’t waste money on bottled water, simply re-fill an old bottle.
  • Cut ends off toothpaste tubes – there’s at least another 10 brushes in there!
  • Plan ahead – with summer holidays fast approaching, think up some fun imagination games to keep the kids happy for free.
  • Put a set amount of cash in a tin to last a month. Dish out to kids for those ‘extras’. Once the tin is empty, no more extras!

Join the conversation on Twitter using the #smallchange tag.

 

Tech savvy money advice.

Posted on 20th May 2014 by · No comments

Firefox MobileImage thanks to Johan Larsson.

Birmingham Settlement’s Money Advice team are always seeking to be at the forefront in the use of technology. It’s all about improving the client’s experience of the service we provide and ensuring we do what we do well and effectively.

Mark Greveson, Financial Inclusion Manager, says “Our outreach workers already have the use of laptops and superb software to take services into the clients home and at access points around the city and beyond. The use of portable printers enables letters and information to be printed out wherever we go. The reality is exciting, it’s a mobile service that takes our expertise anywhere.”

So what’s new? You might say. The advisors have been using this equipment for many years. For the team its not about being content with doing things well, it’s always how we we can do it better!

Mark Greveson says, “We always have a lot of information presented to us when we see clients outside of the office environment. This involves copying down information or having to take documents away from the client to action at a later time. But that’s all about to change with the introduction of portable hand held scanners! This device is being introduced to enable us to scan and save document images wherever we are offering a service.”

The new Iriscan hand held scanner is small, lightweight and easy to use and gives its user the ability to not only save images to the device but also to transfer them via the web using a linked Android device.

Excellent technology is not a replacement for excellent advice and advocacy. Birmingham Settlement’s Money Advice team have highly skilled and experienced advisors and the new technology will improve the way they provide advice in the communities they serve.

Reaching new people for debt and benefits advice in Birmingham.

Posted on 2nd May 2014 by · No comments

Nieke giving advice at the Foodbank

Birmingham Settlement’s Money Advice Centre has expanded its delivery of debt and benefits advice for new organisations, client groups and locations, helping to improve access to financial advice for people who desperately need it in Birmingham and beyond, including:

  • Probation Services: Birmingham Settlement has been awarded a two year contract with Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation Trust to deliver money advice to ex-offenders. We know from experience that finances are often difficult following release from prison and money is one of the biggest factors affecting reoffending. By delivering money advice to ex-offenders throughout Staffordshire and the West Midlands we will provide real benefit to their futures by improving their financial capabilities and resolving any difficulties they may be facing, such as debt. Effective and early interventions including money advice impact on the wider region by reducing re-offending rates, making communities safer for everybody. This project will start in July 2014.
  • Foodbank: After a brief hiatus, Birmingham Settlement now has two money advisers back in Birmingham Central Foodbank, helping to provide advice on debt, benefits and financial planning to people who are struggling to afford food. We are pleased to support those attending the Foodbank, a service becoming more and more crucial in people’s daily lives. Patricia from the foodbank said, “Being able to provide financial literacy advice to clients referred to the foodbank is now a vital part of the service. Having an adviser on site has meant that clients could face their financial crisis and get help and support while at the foodbank rather than being signposted elsewhere.“
  • Outreach: We have recently begun delivering advice in a credit union and library in Ladywood, helping to bring advice services to where people already are, making advisers more accessible to the public.

For more information about our range of debt and benefits advice please contact us.

Community Fun Day for families during the spring school holidays.

Posted on 17th April 2014 by · No comments

On Thursday 24th April Birmingham Settlement are holding a Community Fun Day for families to bring their children to, with a range of fun spring activities to keep children entertained during the school holidays. Also available on the day will be one-to-one support for parents on a range of topics including looking for work, family support and money advice. We hope to build parent’s confidence and skills in these areas, helping to improve their job prospects, money management and parenting skills. We can help with:

  • Helping decide which jobs best suit your skills.
  • Searching for work.
  • How to put together CVs and job applications.
  • Finding and getting onto the right courses.
  • Finding volunteer roles that will support your job search.
  • Family support from a qualified family support worker.
  • Debt and benefits advice from a qualified money adviser.
  • A recruitment specialist will also be available to provide advice.

The event is free to attend for everybody and will take place from 10:30am-2:30pm on Thursday 24th April 2014 at the Centre for the Aston Family, 359-361 Witton Road, Aston, Birmingham B6 6NS.

For further information please download the flyer below or call Siobhan Sadlier on 0121 250 0777.

Community Fun Day flyer

Money advice opening times.

Posted on 17th February 2014 by · No comments

5 coins stacked on top of each other

From Monday 17th February 2014 our money advice centre opening times are changing. This is in order to accommodate as many clients as possible, reduce waiting times and ensure we can better meet the needs of clients with specific needs.

On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays we’ll be open from 9:15am-12:30pm. You don’t need to make an appointment beforehand, but you do need to come in at 9am to be allocated a slot for the same day. Slots are allocated on a first-come first-served basis so the sooner you arrive the better. You will be told what time an adviser will be seeing you so you can either wait to be seen or you can come back later, it is up to you.

We will also be open on Wednesdays from 9:30am-3:30pm for people with appointments only. You can be given an appointment when you come in or you can telephone us. Not everybody will be given an appointment; appointments will be prioritised based on your circumstances (e.g. if you have an emergency or are unable to come in to the centre) as well as for new clients who have been unable to get a slot on our drop-in days, guaranteeing you will be seen.

For more information about our money advice services please click here.

Top ten money saving tips for Debt Awareness Week.

Posted on 21st January 2014 by · No comments

It’s Debt Awareness Week, the perfect opportunity for re-assessing your finances post-Christmas to find out if you need help, and where to get it.

“The combination of changes to welfare benefits and rising household costs is taking its toll,” says Birmingham Settlement CEO Martin Holcombe. “Our debt advice service has seen record numbers and we now have to turn people away as we just don‘t have the resources to meet the demand.”

Recent figures released by the Money Advice Service paint a similar picture. They report that one in three UK adults is estimated to have started 2014 in debt, and figures released this January for the end of 2013 paint a bleak picture with the average household debt at £6,016 without including mortgages.

“We have put together our top ten tips to help families budget and help them manage their money better. This year, more than ever, people need help controlling their finances” says Martin, they include:

1.     Compile a weekly budget and keep to it. Work out your spending limit after bills for food and drink.

2.     Cut back on unnecessary expenses. Make shopping lists and do not be distracted by bargains. Ask yourself: “If I didn’t need something this morning, do I really need it now?” Be wary of tempting 2 for 1s on products you did not intend to buy.

3.     Buy supermarkets’ own brands, the reduced price is often down to lower spend on packaging rather than lower quality products.

4.     Shop online for cheaper items rather than the High Street, but check delivery costs as these can often put up the total costs.

5.     Try home-made gifts. If you are looking for a birthday gift, why not bake one?

6.     Ensure that you continue to pay your priority debts such as mortgages, rent, and Council Tax, fuel and court fines – if you’re unsure how to order your priorities, speak to a money advice service.

7.     Consider applying for financial help if you are in debt and struggling. Birmingham Council has discretionary top-up funds for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support. Some utility companies have independent Trust Funds – Severn Trent Water, British Gas, EDF and NPower, for example.

8.     Do not spend money that you do not have! But if you need to borrow money, be aware of the interest rate and amount repayable. Payday loans are not cheap.

9.     Don’t hold on to unwanted items – eBay them! Whether it’s duplicate wedding gifts, unwanted Christmas presents, or simply clothes you never wear, you could convert your clutter to cash.

10.     You don’t have to do it alone. Start a budget club with friends, where you can share low cost recipes, great discount websites, and more ideas on saving money.

News and Views from Martin Holcombe – Support our campaign for fuel for food.

Posted on 20th December 2013 by · 2 comments

Martin  HolcombeWelcome to my first news and views. I hope to provide you with relevant and informative observations on some of the key issues that we are involved with here at Birmingham Settlement.

Debt is such a big issue now in our society, with many more people than ever before having to deal with the consequences of not having enough money to make ends meet that I wanted to share with you some of our stories.

At the moment we are campaigning and I would like to ask for your support. We are asking politicians to do something tangible that will make a difference for those suffering real financial hardship. The combination of changes to welfare benefits and rising household costs is taking its toll, our debt advice service has seen record numbers and we now have to turn people away as we just don‘t have the resources to meet the demand.

We have suggested a practical measure that could really make a difference. We are asking the energy companies to give every household access to an hour’s supply a day irrespective of debt and personal circumstance – this means if prepayment meters have no credit fuel would still be available for one hour everyday – we suggest between 12 noon and 1 pm. Energy providers (electric and gas) have the technology to make this happen. The residential supply of water cannot be legally disconnected, where as fuel is increasingly disconnected; and to the poorest families in our society. This is wrong! Profit making energy companies need to show social responsibility – support society by putting more back, and now!

Please sign our epetition to ask the Government to legislate for the basic human right for every household to be able to cook a hot meal each day under a Fuel for Food campaign - you can support us by signing the e-petition here.

You can also read more by visiting Birmingham Settlement’s blog here.

With very best wishes for the festive season.

Martin Holcombe
Birmingham Settlement

Top Christmas money saving tips.

Posted on 9th December 2013 by · No comments

christmas 2007 Image thanks to Christine Rutz.

As winter accelerates and the Christmas season approaches, costs can sky-rocket, from heating your home, to buying presents and treats. Here are Birmingham Settlement’s top tips this winter to avoid a financial headache.

1)   Compile a Christmas budget and keep to it. Work out your spending limit for presents, food and drink.

2)   Cut back on unnecessary expenses. Make shopping lists and do not be tempted by bargains. Ask yourself: “If I didn’t need something this morning, do I really need it now?” Be wary of spending in the post-Christmas sales.

3)   Buy supermarkets’ own brands.

4)   Shop online for cheaper items rather than the High Street, but check delivery costs as these can often put up the total costs.

5)   Make your own cakes, bread and Christmas decorations!

6)   Ensure that you continue to pay your priority debts such as mortgages, rent, Council Tax, fuel and court fines.

7)   Consider applying for financial help if you are in debt and struggling. Birmingham Council has discretionary top-up funds for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support. Some utility companies have independent Trust Funds – Severn Trent Water, British Gas, EDF and NPower, for example.

8)   Do not spend money that you do not have! But if you need to borrow money, be aware of the interest rate and amount repayable. Payday loans are not cheap.

9)   Check that you are receiving your correct benefits. You can use online benefit assessors such as “Entitledto”.

10)   Write a New Year’s Resolution to control your spending and open a savings or credit union account.

And don’t forget, Birmingham Settlement has begun an e-petition to ask the Government to legislate for the basic human right for every household to be able to cook a hot meal each day under a Fuel for Food campaign – you can support us by signing the e-petition here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/56536

Keeping the over 50s financially fit.

Posted on 5th December 2013 by · No comments

Fifty may be the new thirty but increases in the cost of living and the rise of the Bank of Mum and Dad is making life harder for many that thought they would be financially secure in their 50s, according to Mark Greveson of Birmingham Settlement.

Mark’s comments come a few days before the 50+ Show comes to the NEC for the first time. The 50+ Show is aimed at active people who want to make the most out of life and is the largest of its kind in the UK. There will be hundreds of exhibitors, from travel companies to wine merchants, with seminars throughout the event providing advice and entertainment to attendees.

Mark will be giving a seminar on financial health on each day of the exhibition, entitled ‘Keeping financially fit in an age of austerity’, which covers, ‘ways to keep your budget healthy’, and, ‘slimming down your debt’. Mark has extensive experience of dealing with all kinds of debt from his role of Financial Inclusion Manager for Birmingham Settlement.

“I deal with financial issues everyday, and there is definitely an increase in the 50+ age range. Adults who felt certain their pension plan was safe and they would be secure are now realising how little interest they get on their savings and in some cases how their children’s economic difficulties are stretching them,” says Mark.

“It’s a trickle up effect,” Mark explains. “The recession means that many pensioners are now supporting their adult children, and possibly even their grandchildren too – so what once seemed like a healthy retirement fund is dwindling.”

The 50+ Show typically attracts thousands of visitors, and as well as dispensing financial advice, Mark will be using the time to promote the work of Birmingham Settlement.

“We are always looking for supporters and volunteers at Birmingham Settlement, so this may also be a great opportunity to introduce our work to people who could be in a position to help.”

The 50+ show is at the NEC on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th December 2013. Visit http://www.50plusshow.com/birmingham/birmingham.htm for more information.

Or you can download a programme below:

50 Plus Show Friday

50 Plus Show Saturday

Martin’s blog – Fuel poverty and corporate greed.

Posted on 5th November 2013 by · No comments

Martin  Holcombe

Like many others I’ve been watching the debate about energy company profits and price rises. I find myself disillusioned with the whole thing; I feel helpless and outside of the discussion; I don’t feel I have a voice and neither do the people I work with. Individuals are of little relevance or consequence – it’s about the wants of corporate finance, majority shareholding institutions concerned more with money than the needs of people. Those on the margins don’t matter, dividends do!

Whilst politicians consider whether levels of profit are too high or if it should be made easier to switch supplier, what I and my colleagues know, and can evidence, is that many people are suffering real hardship. One of the services we run at Birmingham Settlement is a debt advice service and the numbers of people coming to us for advice has spiralled this year. Yesterday we had 53 people through our door seeking financial help and advice – the largest number we’ve ever had in a single day.

I would like politicians and energy company CEOs to spend time with some of the people who through circumstance beyond their control cannot afford the fuel needed to heat their homes or cook their food. We work in partnership with others such as food banks to provide support where it is most needed and I’m afraid a response we are increasingly hearing from clients is ‘there’s no point, I can’t afford the fuel to cook the food’.

I was involved in a discussion a few days ago about whether the UK was the 5th, 6th or 7th largest economy in the world – it seemed to depend on which report you read; the discussion went on to whether it was right for people to be limited to three food parcels per family, irrelevant of circumstance. I was amazed that the idea of food banks now seems to be an acceptable concept, everyday language – is it really acceptable in 2013 that the second largest city in one of the biggest economies in the world has such a problem; that its own citizens cannot cook the contents of a food parcel because they have no fuel?

I am reminded of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – the most basic human life needs include food, drink, shelter, warmth – how on earth can we expect people to grow and prosper if they can’t cook a meal?

Winter is almost on us and for too many this means additional hardship as they will not be able to meet the costs of soaring fuel bills; they will no doubt face the consequences of not being able to contribute to the billions handed out in dividends to the privileged few.

At Birmingham Settlement we have suggested a practical measure that could really make a difference. We are asking the energy companies to give every household access to an hours’ supply a day irrespective of debt and personal circumstance. This means if prepayment meters have no credit fuel would still be available for one hour everyday – we suggest between 12 noon and 1 pm. Energy providers (electric and gas) have the technology to make this happen. The residential supply of water cannot be legally disconnected, where as fuel is increasingly disconnected; and to the poorest families in our society. This is wrong! Profit making energy companies need to show social responsibility – support society by putting more back, and now!

Birmingham Settlement has begun an e-petition to ask the Government to legislate for the basic human right for every household to be able to cook a hot meal each day under a Fuel for Food campaign – you can support us by signing the e-petition here.

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/56536