Money and debt advice given by church volunteers at Launceston Money Advice Centre
For Launceston Money Advice Centre, it all started with small and humble beginnings as an initiative from Launceston Churches Together in 2013. Fast forward 4 years and they have moved their team of volunteers to their new offices at The Gateway Centre, Launceston.
The new office gives a professional look and offers disabled access with a lift. From here they the whole of North East Cornwall Bude to Alternum to Saltash and from Bodmin to Wadebridge.
Launceston Money Advice Centre (LMAC) currently sees round 6-7 new clients each month who are referred to them in a variety of ways; self-referral through their website, referrals through the foodbank, referrals between friends and those who are signposted by the leaflets which are distributed in local libraries, churches, job centres and the one-stop shop.
The centre is managed by Sarah Vinson and it is Sarah and her team of volunteers that help people with serious money and debt issues. There are currently five volunteers including one who specialises in benefits. Each volunteer needs to undergo thorough training before they are able to meet and advise a client. The volunteers all take part in online financial awareness courses, complete courses in personal data protection and safeguarding and all have to be DBS checked. In total they are required to complete 12 – 20 hours of training before they become a volunteer advisor. LMAC is affiliated to the national charity, Community Money Advice and are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
One advisor at the centre, Nigel Parker explains,
“Although we are volunteers, we have to undertake a lot of training which results in the Launceston Money Advice Centre being a professional organisation that offers expert advice to people who really need it.”
The majority of people are typically struggling with managing their money which often coincides with a life changing event such as redundancy or have a medical condition that affects their ability to work or fulfil their caring role. Other triggers to money problems may be the breakdown of a relationship, debts in social housing, and issues with late or overpayment of state and local benefits. The average debt the volunteers work with is £5000 – £6000 with some clients owning significantly more than this.
The volunteer advisor starts by going through the client’s money or debt worries and creates an initial online assessment of their income, expenses and creditors. Once they have done this, the client has the option to sign a contract of authorisation for Launceston Money Advice Centre to act on their behalf.
“It’s all about budgeting and keeping within our means. We offer a personal face-to-face service to help our clients with this. Once the client has taken the first courageous step to seek help, the best thing the creditors want to hear is that a client has recognised they have a problem and are seeking help.’
Though every situation is different, the average time spent working with each individual client is 10 – 12 hours of face-to-face contact with an additional 12-18 hours of administration time.
Sarah goes on to say,
“It can be really rewarding to see how supporting and helping our clients can help them move forward.”
Currently, all the volunteers who work at the centre are involved in their local church. Sarah would love to see other churches get involved in helping those with money problems.
“The majority of people in our church congregations are fortunate and thankful that they can manage their financial affairs but they also need to recognise that things could change, often through no fault of their own and they themselves could be the ones in need of practical help and support,’
The Launceston Money Advice Centre currently operates as a charity. It receive grants from local organisations such as the Rotary Club of Launceston and Launceston Town Council, a monthly contribution from the Anglican Churches in the Launceston area, as well as a number of fundraising events taking place through the year such as coffee mornings, raffles and cake stalls.
Though the Launceston Money Advice Centre have achieved a staggering amount in the last three years, Sarah and her team are not stopping there. Their plans for the future include implementing financial training sessions in local schools and recruiting more volunteers to help grow their team of advisors.
The Launceston Money Advice Centre will be officially opened by Scott Mann, MP on Friday 31st March at 12pm followed by an ‘Open House’ until 3pm for others to drop in and see their new offices and meet the team.
If you are able to support LMAC in anyway, please get in touch via their web site www.launcestonmoney.co.uk.