Northamptonshire housing association offers hope on Blue Monday
Published by Sarah Thomas for Wellingborough Homes in Housing and also in Local Government
A forward-thinking Northamptonshire housing association is offering a glimmer of hope to people struggling with money worries in recession-hit Britain on the most depressing day of the year.
On Blue Monday (21st January), Wellingborough Homes is hosting a conference on welfare reform and what can be done to help local residents hit by benefit cuts.
A groundbreaking advice shop in the town, the FISH Shop – opened by Wellingborough Homes and its partners a year ago – is also relaunching on the same day to raise awareness of the help it can give people struggling with money worries or confused by the welfare changes.
Blue Monday – usually the Monday of the last full week of January – is widely reported as the most depressing day of the year, based on a calculation taking into account factors such as weather, debt, time since Christmas, failed New Year’s resolutions and low motivational levels.
As national financial hardship continues and fears over the impact of welfare reform grow, many may argue that this year Blue Monday will be one of the most depressing ever.
But Wellingborough Homes is taking action to help individuals tackle their financial troubles and ensure organisations prepare for the challenges welfare reform will bring.
The conference – “Understanding welfare reform and how it will impact on the people of Wellingborough” – will take place at the Everyday Champions Centre, in Havelock Street, from 10am to 1pm.
Up to 80 delegates will discuss how statutory and voluntary organisations can work together to support people affected by the welfare shake-up, which will see cuts in benefits to millions of people across the country.
Key speakers will include Director of Operations Simon Favell and Head of Customer Services and Support Services Maureen Baker, from Wellingborough Homes, plus Michael Patterson from Support Solutions, Martin Lord from the Citizens Advice Bureau, Jo Purdy from Clockwise Credit Union and Nigel Robinson from the Borough Council of Wellingborough.
Partners invited to the conference include representatives from the Samaritans, the NHS, Age UK, the Daylight Centre homeless service, Mind, Women’s Aid, Wellingborough African Caribbean Association and the Sofa Wise furniture recycling charity.
On the same day as the conference, the FISH (Free Impartial Support and Help) Shop, in Cambridge Street, marks its first year by re-launching with a brand new look to raise awareness of the advice and support it offers people battling debt, facing benefit cuts or looking for work.
Wellingborough Homes opened the shop – the first of its kind – to create an easily accessible advice hub which brings together a number of different services under one roof.
In its first year, the shop has already helped thousands of people in various ways, from claiming benefits to finding work, fleeing domestic violence to settling neighbour disputes. Advisors have dealt with almost 8,000 enquiries and supported well over 2,000 people.
The idea behind the drop-in advice centre is for agencies to work together to provide people in need with a full package of coordinated help to cater for their various needs.
Its team of advisors provides free, confidential help and support to the borough’s residents on a range of issues, including debt, welfare and benefits, housing, employment and training opportunities, health and well-being, mediation and family support.
Partners include Wellingborough Homes, the Community Law Service, JobCentre Plus, Connexions Northamptonshire, Women’s Aid, the Mallows Company, Family Support Link, NHS health trainers and Heartlands Mediation.
Dave Willis, Chief Executive of Wellingborough Homes, said: “These are already financially tough times for people and the new welfare reform changes will affect millions of individuals and families across the country.
“The aim of the conference is for us to work together to pool knowledge and resources so we can better support Wellingborough residents hit by these benefit cuts.
“But it is not just about money and benefits, it is about people and looking at ways of tackling the whole problem – the overall impact on individuals’ lives, their jobs, health and families.
“We will be looking at the full implications of welfare reform. For example, all access to jobs and benefits will be online but many people do not have these IT skills and they could lose out financially because they do not have a computer.
“So we are looking at how we can help people by making sure they are aware of the services available to help them, such as where they can get free use of computers in Wellingborough, which includes the FISH Shop.”