Financial Inclusion Together project comes to an end but leaves a lasting legacy to help tackle poverty
Rhian Hughes, Financial Inclusion Champion in North Wales, tells us how she felt privileged to speak at the Conwy & Denbighshire Local Service Board – Financial Inclusion Together (FIT) project end event on Friday (24 October 2014). Supported by the European Social Fund, the aim of FIT was to tackle poverty by developing, co-ordinating and promoting financial inclusion within Local Service Board (LSB) organisations across Conwy and Denbighshire.
Having worked closely on FIT from its inception, and being a member of the Project Board, it was also a pleasure to hear others speak so positively about the project and the outcomes it has achieved.
The event was led by Alan Smith from Denbighshire County Council, who is the Chair of the Project Board. Others who shared their experience of the project were Bev Moore, LSB Development Officer for Denbighshire, who gave an overview of the project’s achievements. Cath Richards, Benefits Manager for Conwy Council, described how Conwy were embedding and incorporating financial inclusion in to their strategic planning. Chris Bailey, a Debt and Money Adviser for Clwyd Alyn, explained how they will be incorporating the training in to their day to day activity.
Andrew Bowden, Chair of the Conwy & Denbighshire LSB said he was ‘proud and pleased’ to have been involved in the project, and Cllr Philip Edwards of Conwy Council, who is also the Anti Poverty Champion for the local authority, said it was a ‘privilege’ to be a part of this project. Both Andrew Bowden and Philip Edwards are members of the Project Board.
This event was a culmination of 18 months work to achieve some very impressive outcomes, including our aim to train 1000 front line staff from LSB partner organisations to equip them with the knowledge and skills to support their service users. We are confident that our target will be reached when the project ends at the end of December. These front line workers have also been equipped with quality resources to support them in their work. We have also exceeded some of the targets we set at the beginning of the project, including increasing the knowledge and confidence of frontline workers to recognise financial exclusion.
A surprising outcome was also the fact that 73% of those who attended the training, felt that they themselves were more financially included as a result, through the training and also in a position to pass this on to their family and friends. We also heard from a frontline worker’s experience of attending the training and how they were then able to support service users experiencing financial difficulty.
Representatives from Welsh Government, housing associations, and the third sector also attended the event, as well as Iwan Davies, Chief Executive of Conwy Council and other strategic members from both Conwy and Denbighshire County Councils. Although the project will end at the end of December, a change of culture has taken place within the LSB partner organisations and we will see financial inclusion as part of their strategic planning. The work will not end and we will continue to tackle poverty and financial exclusion by working together.
Fforwm Mentrau Cymdeithasol Gwynedd yn cael ei lansio a’r sir yn cael ei chydnabod fel pencampwr mentrau cymdeithasol, y chyntaf o’i bath yng Nghymru
Lansiwyd Fforwm Mentrau Cymdeithasol Gwynedd sydd yn cynnwys 15 o brif mentrau’r sir yn y Galeri, Caernarfon, un o’i aelodau uchaf ei phroffeil, yn ddiweddar.
Mentrau Cymdeithasol yw cwmniau a busnesau cymunedol sydd yn darparu gwasanaethau yn y cymunedau hynny maent yn gynrychioli a chaiff yr elw a gynhyrchir ei ail fuddsoddi yn y gweithgareddau. Nid ydynt yn dosranu yr elw i gyfranddalwyr ond yn hytrach caiff ei ail fuddsoddi er mwyn gwella eu gwasanaethau ac ar gyfer creu mwy o swyddi o fewn yr ardal leol. Rhwng y pymtheg ‘roedd eu trosiant blynyddol diweddar yn £30,024,621, gwerth eu asedau yn £322,831,057, maent yn cyflogi 476 o bobol yn llawn amser a 197 yn rhan amser ac cynigir cyfleon gwirfoddoli i 1028 o drigolion y sir.
Wrth lawnsio’r Fforum yn swyddogol diolchodd Cadeirydd y cyfarfod, Walis George o Grwp Tai Cymdeithasol Cynefin, Cyngor Gwynedd a Chanolfan Cydweithredol Cymru am eu cefnogaeth ymarferol wrth sefydlu’r fenter. “Daeth cefnogaeth parod oddiwrth Cyngor Gwynedd gan ei fod yn gwerthfawrogi y gwasanaethau hynny a ddarperir gan y partneriaid o fewn y gwahanol gymunedau yn y sir. Mae yna berthynas glos sydd yn datblygu yn gyson ac fe edrychwn ymlaen i gydweithio yn agosach wrth geisio ymdrin a’r her ariannol sylweddol a wynebir gan y cyngor. Bu Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru yn allweddol iawn wrth helpu i sefydlu’r fforwm ac fe ddiolchwn iddynt am eu gweledigaeth ag ymdrech”. Ategodd bod tair nod i’r Fforwm
- Datblygu perthynas agosach a werth chweil gyda Cyngor Gwynedd a chyrff cyhoeddus eraill er mwyn diogelu a gwella gwasanaethau
- Aelodau yn cydweithio er mwyn rhannu ymarfer da a chynnig cefnogaeth i’r nifer cynyddol o fentrau a gafodd eu sefydlu a’u datblygu yng Ngwynedd yn ddiweddar nad ydynt ar hyn o bryd yn aelodau o’r Fforwm
- Cydweithio er mwyn ceisio dynodi cyfleon newydd a all helpu i wella neu ychwanegu at wasanaethau fydd yn gwella ansawdd bywyd pobol a chymunedau Gwynedd.
Yn bresennol er mwyn cyhoeddi bod Gwynedd bellach yn cael ei chydnabod fel sir ‘Mentrau Cymdeithasol’ gan Mentrau Cymdeithasol DU oedd un o’i swyddogion Charlie Wigglesworth. Llongyfarchwyd Gwynedd a’r Fforwm am fod y cyntaf yng Nghymru i dderbyn yr anrhydedd a’r seithfed ardal o fewn Ynysoedd Prydain i’w chael ei chydnabod. Sefydlwyd y wobr er mwyn cydnabod yr ardaloedd hynny lle mae nifer o fentrau cymdeithasol a bwrlwm yn y maes sydd yn gwella bywyd cymunedau a’u trigolion.
(L-r: Walis George, CEO Grŵp Cynefin; Glenn Bowen, Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru; Charlie Wigglesworth, SEUK, Gwenllian Roberts, Llywodraeth Cymru; Dyfed Edwards, Cyngor Gwynedd).
Gwynedd acknowledged as the first ‘Social Enterprise’ county in Wales with the launch of Social Enterprise Forum
An Enterprise Forum made up of fifteen of Gwynedd’s main social enterprises was launched recently at Galeri, Caernarfon.
Social enterprises are community based businesses that deliver services for those communities they serve with all surpluses reinvested in their operation. Profits are not distributed to shareholders but rather are reinvested to enhance services and/or create more jobs locally. Between them the 15 have annual turnovers totalling £30,024,621, a total asset base of £322,831,057, and they employ 476 full-time and 197 part-time as well as offer work opportunities for 1028 volunteers.
Walis George of the Cynefin Social Housing Group, chaired the launch. He thanked both Gwynedd Council and the Wales Co-operative Centre for their practical support over the years for individual enterprises and for helping to establish the Forum.
“The Forum has been actively and practically supported by Gwynedd Council as it sees the members as offering vital services to communities within the county. There is a close working relationship that is continually developing and we hope that we can help the local authority with the financial challenges it faces over the next few years and its efforts to sustain services. The Wales Co-operative Centre has been instrumental in establishing this Forum and we thank them for their vision and efforts.”
The Social Enterprise Forum in Gwynedd has three main aims:
- To cement a closer relationship with Gwynedd council and other public bodies to ensure that services are sustained and even enhanced
- Members working together to share good practice and develop the sector, especially supporting the numerous fledgling social enterprises within Gwynedd that are not involved at present
- Working together to identify and develop new opportunities to provide new and enhanced services that can benefit the people and communities of Gwynedd
Charlie Wigglesworth of Social Enterprises UK attended the event which commemorated Gwynedd recognition as a Social Enterprise County. He congratulated Gwynedd as being the first county in Wales to receive this accolade and the seventh area in the British Isles to date. The award has been established to recognise those areas where there is an active and mature social enterprise sector that is making a meaningful difference to people’s lives.
(L-r: Walis George, CEO Grŵp Cynefin; Glenn Bowen, Wales Co-operative Centre; Charlie Wigglesworth, SEUK, Gwenllian Roberts, Welsh Government; Dyfed Edwards, Gwynedd Council).
Dros yr ychydig flynyddoedd diwethaf, bûm yn ffodus i annerch amrywiol gynadleddau, rhwydweithiau a digwyddiadau eraill ynglŷn â gwaith y prosiect Taclo Digartrefedd trwy Gynhwysiant Ariannol rydym yn gyfrifol amdano yng Nghanolfan Cydweithredol Cymru. Bydd y cyfle i gynnal sesiwn ymylol yn Symposiwm Digartrefedd y DU, yng Nghaerdydd, yn ein rhoi ar lwyfan cenedlaethol am y tro cyntaf a hefyd yn ein galluogi i rannu arfer gorau â’n cymheiriaid o bob cwr o’r wlad.
Mae rhai themâu allweddol i’r symposiwm – dysgu, gweithio mewn partneriaeth ac arloesi – sydd oll yn cyd-fynd â’n gwaith a ffocws strategol y Ganolfan ar daclo tlodi. Yn y digwyddiad, byddaf yn rhoi ein gwaith yn ei gyd-destun trwy siarad am ei berthnasedd i Ddeddf Tai Llywodraeth Cymru, a ddaeth i rym y mis diwethaf, a’r cyfleoedd a ddaw yn ei sgil.
Er enghraifft, wrth ystyried tenantiaid bregus, yn y gorffennol byddai cyn-droseddwr wedi cael tenantiaeth chwe mis yn unig mewn tŷ cymdeithasol. Nawr, gallai gael cartref yn y Sector Rhentu Preifat o dan denantiaeth safonedig – byddai hyn yn rhoi mwy o sicrwydd o fewn daliadaeth.
Byddaf hefyd yn siarad am ganfyddiadau’r gwaith a wnaethom yng Nghaerffili, gyda’r Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol a landlordiaid preifat, lle rydym wedi ymweld â chartrefi tenantiaid y mae eu landlordiaid yn derbyn eu rhent o dan y polisi Diogelu. Mae’r holl denantiaid rydym wedi ymweld â nhw wedi elwa ar gael eglurhad manwl o sut y bydd y Diwygiadau Lles yn effeithio arnynt yn bersonol, ynghyd â’r camau y gallant eu cymryd i helpu i baratoi at gyflwyno Credyd Cynhwysol.
Byddaf yn cyfeirio at Gomisiwn Williams a sut y gall y posibilrwydd y bydd llai o awdurdodau lleol yng Nghymru arwain at heriau a chyfleoedd i’r sector tai. Er ei bod yn bosibl y bydd llai o adnoddau ac arian, gallai adrefnu fel hyn arwain at ailfeddwl am sut y mae gwasanaethau’n cael eu darparu, gan wella’r ffordd y mae pobl yn cael help i gael mynediad i’r gwasanaeth/ymyrraeth gywir ar yr amser cywir.
Mae’n amlwg bod angen i landlordiaid wneud rhagor i gefnogi tenantiaid yn y Sector Rhentu Preifat; nid oes fawr ddim rhyngweithio rhwng llawer ohonynt â’u tenantiaid. Fodd bynnag, gwyddom hefyd y gall rhai tenantiaid fod yn amharod i helpu’u hunain, i fynegi’u pryderon a gofyn am help oherwydd eu bod yn ofni cael eu troi allan o’u cartrefi. Mae angen i landlordiaid, awdurdodau lleol a sefydliadau cymorth gyfathrebu’n well â’i gilydd – mae peth arfer da ond nid yw’n gyson ledled Cymru. Mae angen i ni weld partneriaethau cryfach yn cael eu datblygu rhwng awdurdodau lleol a landlordiaid preifat, gan arwain at ddealltwriaeth well o wendidau tenantiaid a’r gefnogaeth y mae arnynt ei hangen. Yn y bôn, mae angen i awdurdodau lleol weld landlordiaid preifat fel partner tai strategol.
Fe wna i ddistewi nawr, neu byddaf wedi dweud y cyfan! Hefyd, bydd gweithdai yn cael eu cynnal yn hwyrach yn y dydd a fydd yn manylu ymhellach ar rai o’r materion y byddaf yn siarad amdanynt.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been fortunate to address various conferences, networks and other events on the work of the Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion Project that we run at the Wales Co-operative Centre. The opportunity to run a fringe session at the UK Homelessness Symposium, in Cardiff, will put us on a national stage for the first time and also enable us to share best practice with our counterparts from around the country.
The symposium has some key themes running through it – learning, partnership working and innovation – all of which chime with our work. At the event, I will put our work into context by talking about its relevance to the Welsh Government’s Housing Act, that became law last month, and the opportunities it brings.
I’ll also talk about the findings from the work we’ve done in Caerphilly, with the County Borough Council and private landlords that has seen us carry out home visits with tenants whose landlords receive their rent under the Safeguarding policy. All of the tenants we visited have benefitted from a detailed explanation of how the Welfare Reforms will affect them personally, along with measures they can take to help prepare for the introduction of Universal Credit.
I’ll touch upon the Williams Commission and how the potential reduction in local authorities in Wales can again lead to challenges and opportunities for the housing sector. While there may be a reduction in resources and funding, such a shake-up could lead to rethinking on the delivery of services, improving the way people are helped to access the right service/intervention at the right time.
It’s clear that landlords need to do more to support tenants in the Private Rented Sector; many have little or no interaction with their tenants. However, we also know that some tenants can be reluctant to help themselves, to speak up and ask for help. Landlords, local authorities and support organisations need better communication with each other – there is some good practice but it’s not consistent throughout Wales. We need to see stronger partnerships being built between local authorities and private landlords, leading to a better understanding of tenants’ vulnerabilities and the support they require. Essentially, local authorities need to view private landlords as a strategic housing partner.
I’ll leave it there, otherwise I’ll give everything away! Also, there are workshops taking place later in the day that will go into greater detail on some of the issues that I’ll be talking about.
The Wales Co-operative Centre discusses financial inclusion and its impact on tenants in the private rented sector
Jocelle Lovell, our Financial Inclusion Project Manager, discusses the projects work with the Private Rented Sector (PRS).
Last week, Shelter Cymru held a PRS conference, at the Liberty Stadium Swansea, and our Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion Project, was delighted to be invited along to deliver a workshop.
Having attended many events that generally focus on what’s wrong with the PRS, it was very welcoming to see the sector being discussed in a positive light. Attendees included private landlords, lettings agents, the Residential Landlords Association, along with local authority housing & Supporting People teams, the Oak Foundation, the Wallich and a host of other support agencies and projects.
The event was a great platform for the Centre to share the learnings and best practice gathered over the past two years working with tenants in the PRS.
Findings from our pilot with Caerphilly County Borough Council found that out of 67 tenants visited;
- 67.9% stated they were aware that benefits are changing
- Over 50% had taken Department of Work Pensions or Job Centre Plus loan or used a door step lender in the past 12 months
- 62.5% had faced difficulty paying rent in the past 12 months
- 60% had faced difficulty paying gas/electric in the past 12 months
- 52.5% had faced difficulty paying for Food in the past 12 months
- 48.3% wanted budgeting advice
- 58.6% wanted debt advice
- Over 50% needed referrals to additional services including food banks.
Many of the tenants visited, either didn’t know what support they could access or didn’t like to ask for help. This was exacerbated if they had a bad experience in the past.
Having listened to the other speakers throughout the day, some of the key points which reflect our thinking stayed with me:
- Communication needs to improve between, local authorities, support services, landlords and tenants.
- Landlords and tenants are less aware of the support available and how it can be accessed
- There are some great examples of innovative working practices across Wales, but this is not consistent across all local authorities
- The need for landlord and tenant training
- More needs to be done when tenants are first housed into the PRS, early intervention can prevent crisis
- The PRS should be recognised as a strategic housing partner
- Some tenants want the flexibility of a short term tenancy, due to their transient nature and uncertainty of job security.
Simon White from Welsh Government, delivered an informative session on the Renting Homes Bill consultation and it’s implications for local authorities, landlords and tenants. Overall people welcomed the notion to simplify and restrict the number of tenancy agreements currently being used across the housing sector, but some were concerned that the changes may take away tenants flexibility to a short term tenancy. Due to the Centre’s work in the private rented sector and its Co-operative Housing Project, we have submitted a formal response to both the Renting Homes Bill and The Housing White Paper.