Managing Money better thanks to Comic Relief
Published by Kelly Elliott for Derwentside Homes Ltd in Housing and also in Communities
Staff from the Managing Money Better project, Prince Bishops Community Bank and Derwentside Homes, outside the project’s base in Stanley, Co Durham.
On Friday, people across the UK donned red noses and took part in a host of outlandish fundraising activities, all in aid of Comic Relief.
But once Red Nose Day is over, where does the money go and who benefits? For the people of County Durham, the answer is on their doorsteps in the form of the Managing Money Better project.
This free service aims to provide support to older people across the county who are living in fuel poverty.
It provides energy saving guidance to help people heat their homes in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible, as well as offering financial advice to ensure they remain debt free despite rising fuel prices.
The project has been awarded £364,000 by Comic Relief and is supported by a variety of local organisations, including Prince Bishops Community Bank, Derwentside Homes, the Mid Durham Area Action Partnership, Durham County Council, the NHS and Durham CVS.
This range of expertise and experience means people using the service are given the most accurate and up-to-date advice available, whether it is financial, welfare or energy related.
One couple who have already benefitted form the service, which launched earlier this year, are Mr. and Mrs. Smith, who have saved over £600 on their energy bills since getting in touch.
As low energy users the couple should have been on a usage tariff, but had instead been placed on a fixed tariff, which meant they were paying a substantially higher amount than they should have been.
The Managing Money Better coordinator managed to switch them to a more suitable tariff from the same provider.
Speaking about their experience the couple said: “We really appreciated the service and the assistance provided by the energy advisor. We thought we had a good deal until our visit and are pleased that we managed to save so much.”
Four members of staff have been recruited to run the Managing Money Better service, all providing practical help and support.
One of the first steps is for one of the project’s energy coordinators to visit customers and carry out a household MOT, before recommending how energy usage can be reduced, such as installing draught excluders and home insulation, bleeding radiators and setting heating controls.
Welfare advice is also given to ensure older people are claiming the benefits they are entitled to.
Another way the project helps people save money is by setting up Direct Debit payments on their behalf to pay for utility bills, which usually results in a significant saving.
The Direct Debit is organised through the Prince Bishops Community Bank, with the customer then paying the bank directly, meaning even people who do not have bank accounts can benefit from such savings.
Bank Manager Lesley Richardson said: “Managing Money Better is a fantastic project because it provides a full range of services under one roof, all with the aim of improving older people’s financial knowledge and ensuring they are being given the help they need and are entitled to.
“Receiving this funding means we can offer really practical advice which will result in older people in our area saving money and having a better quality of life as a result.”
With one in five older people now living below the poverty line, and many lacking access to good, independent financial advice, the Managing Money Better scheme impressed the Comic Relief funders with its holistic approach to tackling fuel poverty.
Gilly Green, Head of UK Grants at Comic Relief said: “We are delighted to be supporting this new project in the north-east of England helping older people deal with the effects of fuel poverty and the rising cost of living and look forward to seeing some very positive outcomes for them as a result.”
Keith Tallintire, Director of Resources at Derwentside Homes, which is supporting the Managing Money Better project, said: “The cost of fuel is continuing to rise and with changes to the benefits system due to start soon we know there is demand amongst our tenants and other local residents for a service such as this.
“It’s great to know that some of the money raised by Comic Relief is going towards helping projects like this which make a big difference to the lives of local people here in County Durham.”
To find out more about the Managing Money Better project please call 0300 5000 933 or visit www.mmbdurham.org.uk.