COMING TOGETHER TO MAKE THINGS FAIR

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

 

COMMUNITIES are at their strongest when the people in them come together and help each other.

Luckily here in the Bay, there are lots of examples of strong, resilient communities whose people step up when needed and everyone benefits as a result.

COVID saw thousands of examples of people working together in their communities for the greater good, and many more existed before and have continued after.

Back in 2018, Ageing Well Torbay brought together a group of people to work out how to provide financial advice to each other in an ever more complex world where some are not aware of what they are entitled to and many more have no idea how to claim it.

Citizens Advice has long been a bastion of good practice when it comes to helping people find their way through the financial jungle, but pecuniary pressures of their own meant they were unable to offer as much as they once did.

Not many years ago, CAB had premises on most major high streets and were the go-to one-stop shop for financial and often complex woes. They were the people’s champions, getting them out of financial straits and representing their rights at every level.

But spending cuts meant that many had been forced to close and despite ever-increasing problems in communities across the country, advice was becoming scarce and very limited from a CAB point of view.

AWT brought together what was effectively a focus group to see what could be done and how the worst off in our society could be helped to get all that they deserved and every penny of what they were entitled to.

FAIR – Financial Advice, information and Resilience was born – a peer-to-peer support network that would work out of the premises of various established organisations in the Bay, staffed in the main by trained volunteers.

It was and is an incredible success story that has gone from strength to strength despite being held back by COVID and to date it has helped people in the Bay claim just short of £1,300,000 in benefits and grants that they were entitled to but for various reason were either unable to claim or were unaware of.

Let me repeat that, just under £1.3m. Lives have been changed as a result. The mental health of individuals has been improved immeasurably. The standard of living of individuals and whole families have been boosted and last but not least a great deal of money has been put back into the local economy.

It has allowed people to get on with their lives without the very real fear of debt and all the stresses that debt brings. It has allowed some to go on holiday for the first time in years. They have been able to travel, to see family and some have even been able to move house.

It has allowed them to buy essential household items with the need for expensive hire purchase or crippling loans and it has allowed them to switch off the pre-payment meters and reduce their energy bills as a result.

In short, for a great many people helped by the FAIR project, the results have been life-changing.

FAIR has been a coming together of lots of independent charity and voluntary sector organisations like Brixham Does Care, the Torbay Advice Network, Homemaker South West, Mencap, Yes Brixham and the Crafty Fox, among them. Their hard work and diligence has put hundreds of smiles back on hundreds of faces.

The feedback has been heartening and very satisfying for all involved and tributes and thanks have flowed in from those that have been helped, whose lives have been changed for the better.

Although Ageing Well has now ended, the FAIR project is continuing and has been taken on board by the organisations that have trained their staff and volunteers to enable it to continue.

Hopefully, funding will be made available, to allow more people to be trained, particularly as the project, though incredible successful, because of COVID did not reach its full potential.

The aim was to train 44 volunteers, but circumstances meant only 32 were recruited and still they clawed back £1.3m. Imagine how much it might have been if it had been operating at full capacity?

To access FAIR, ring the Torbay Community Helpline on 01803 446022 or use the online form: bit.ly/torbayhelpline

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