A number of Berwick-based Four Housing residents can help their friends and neighbours with money matters after qualifying as ‘Benefit Buddies’.
Sixteen Four Housing customers have completed the Community Benefit Buddies (CBBs) scheme, which included an accredited financial training course delivered by New College Durham.
They are now able to provide financial advice to family members, friends and neighbours, as the impact of the welfare reform starts to impact on communities.
Berwick-based Four Housing customer Barry Howells, said: “I’ve always been an active member of the community and have often participated in Four Housing’s voluntary service improvement groups – that’s how I found out about the CBBs scheme.
“I wanted to get involved so I could help others with their money matters. Through completing the course, I’m now able to give people the facts about what help is available to them and a best course of action, rather than simply telling them what I think they should do.”
Mr Howells of Shoresdean added: “The course has done so much for my confidence. I’ve got a new qualification and a certificate to prove it.
“I enjoy keeping up to date with developments around the welfare reforms and like being able to help members of my community with my new-found knowledge.”
The course covered a range of topics including basic budgeting skills, credit unions, illegal money lending and energy use.
The CBBs were awarded their certificates by Chris Reed, assistant director of operations at Four Housing, in a special ceremony at the housing provider’s head office in Pity Me, Durham.
Commenting on the success of the course, Mr Reed said: “The idea behind our CBBs scheme was born after the success of a Welfare Reform Awareness Day. The participants said they were keen to help their communities and pass on their new-found knowledge.”
Four Housing anticipated that approximately 800 of its working-age tenants would be affected by introduction of the under-occupancy charge, or ‘bedroom-tax’. This equates to almost 20 per cent of its customers, potentially forcing many tenants into real poverty
Mr Reed continued: “Following reform to the welfare system, Four Housing has devoted resources to guiding residents through the changes. As an organisation, we passionately believe that our customers should drive the development of new services and so it was important that customers were at the heart of any money management initiative.”
The customer-led money advice scheme has been extremely popular, with a current waiting list to join CBBs.
For more information about Four Housing, visit: www.fourhousing.co.uk