Black hole uncovers debt fears for Wellingborough shoppers
Published by kerri smith for Wellingborough Homes in Housing and also in Bill Payments, Communities
Wellingborough Homes chief Executive Dave Willis, falling in to the 'black hole'
Shoppers were in for a shock when a black hole opened up in Wellingborough town centre yesterday (Monday) to highlight concerns over a looming national crisis.
Passers-by teetered on the edge of the virtual crater after 3D street art created the striking visual image on the pavement outside groundbreaking advice centre the FISH Shop.
Local housing association Wellingborough Homes, one of the organisations which run the shop, arranged for the artwork to appear following a conference in the town on welfare reform.
The stunt – the first time 3D street art has appeared in the borough – represented the black hole of debt facing many Wellingborough residents who are at risk of benefit cuts due to the national welfare reforms being introduced from April.
It aimed to raise awareness of the help available at the FISH (Free Impartial Support and Help) Shop for people struggling with debt, looking for work or worried how the impending benefit changes will affect them.
It coincided with a conference in the town hosted by Wellingborough Homes on welfare reform and its impact on the borough’s residents.
Wellingborough Homes and other local advice organisations opened the FISH Shop – the first of its kind – a year ago to offer a wide range of advice and support all under one roof.
Its advisors provide free, confidential help 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.
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.
As the shop revealed a new look and logo today to mark its first anniversary, Wellingborough Homes’ conference on welfare reform was taking place at the Everyday Champions Centre, in Havelock Street.
Delegates gathered to discuss the theme of the event – “Understanding welfare reform and how it will impact on the people of Wellingborough”.
The mix of representatives from statutory and voluntary organisations looked at how they can best 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 included 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.
Delegates invited to the conference included 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.
Dave Willis, Chief Executive of Wellingborough Homes, said: “Many people are already struggling financially and are worried what the welfare reform changes will mean for them.
“So it is vital that agencies get together to work out the best way forward to meet the challenge, helping to support individuals and families through these tough times.
“The conference proved interesting, thought-provoking and a good starting point for us to take ideas forward, so we can share our knowledge and expertise for the benefit of Wellingborough’s residents.”