Clarion Futures Money Guidance offers in-depth budgeting and money coaching to Clarion residents struggling to make ends meet. As the number of households affected by poverty has increased, the service has expanded and become increasingly sophisticated, both in terms of how it engages residents and the support it offers. Steph Noyce, Head of Money and Digital at Clarion Futures, explains more.
Using household data, the dedicated Money Guidance team is able to identify and call residents likely to be facing financial hardships, such as those transitioning onto Universal Credit, newly in arrears or facing a move. As the cost of living crisis has worsened, these calls have become a larger proportion of our work, enabling us to actively engage those at greatest risk, before they reach crisis point.
The team has access to a household support fund worth £238,000 which enables Guidance Officers to provide immediate financial support to those struggling to effectively engage in Money Guidance because basic needs aren’t being met. Financial support provided encompasses supermarket and household fuel vouchers, school uniforms, beds, white goods and basic household appliances.
In 2022/23, Money Guidance support was delivered to 4,349 Clarion households, with 12,599 money-related interventions delivered through both casework and one-off support by the team. Together with interventions delivered by partners, including debt advice, this figure rises to 17,656.
In 2021/22, 50% of cases were generated through outbound, proactive calls to residents compared to almost 80% in 2022/23 – a figure which has remained consistent at the time of writing. The service was set up to provide support which addresses the underlying causes of poverty, supporting sustainable change which in turn prevents financial crisis – this focus has enabled us to stay true to that aim even during the cost of living crisis.
On average, one in four of those households successfully contacted by Money Guidance progress into in-depth casework, beyond the general financial guidance and signposting provided through the initial conversation.
Since August 2022, 7,181 households were targeted for fuel poverty support, with 2,033 successfully contacted. All of these received basic level fuel poverty and money management guidance and signposting, with a quarter progressing into in-depth money guidance and fuel poverty support. In addition, a total of 3,474 grant awards were made in 2022/23 worth £234,566.
Ensuring support gets to those who need it most
With increasing numbers of households affected by the cost of living crisis and finite resources, the team have had to increasingly focus on making sure one-to-one, in-depth money guidance support is prioritised and provided to those least likely to be able to help themselves.
Over the last year, our ‘self help’ money guidance offer has grown, developing a range of social media, web-based and physical resources which encourage those residents who can independently make financial changes to do so.
In addition, more than 700 frontline staff have been trained to give basic level money guidance and support on how to identify appropriate referral routes for those needing further support, including referral to our own in-house specialists.
Prioritising different resident groups
Initial findings from our annual resident survey, The Index, conducted over the summer showed a significant drift towards greater financial difficulty with more than half (56%) of Clarion households saying they are worse off financially compared with 12 months ago and one in five residents (21%) running out of money before the end of the week or month. Two fifths (41%) have had to borrow money or use credit to pay for essentials – up from 35% the previous year. While all these households could benefit from specialist money guidance, we do not have the resources to reach out to them all.
Our approach has been to focus on two main groups – those newly in arrears and those moving onto Universal Credit – on the basis that providing support at an early stage has the potential to prevent a longer-term spiral with potentially significant impacts (e.g. unmanageable debt and/or eviction due to arrears).
Alongside this, we are trialling phone calls with a wider range of groups facing financial change to establish effectiveness at both engaging residents in support services and the longer-term impact on financial stability. Results of these different trials will be reviewed throughout the year.
Taking a proactive approach can be used to engage people before crisis point and reduces dependency on incoming referrals which can be hard to plan resourcing for.
If you’d like to find out more, please email Steph Noyce, Head of Money and Digital at Clarion Futures.