Promoting financial inclusion – Norwich City Council

Posted on 6th June, 2014

Background

Increasing financial inclusion is a council priority and a financial inclusion strategy was adopted by Cabinet in 2009 to shape this work.

The purpose of the strategy was that:

Norwich City Council will work with key organisations from the public, private and third sectors to ensure that all residents in Norwich have the resources to enjoy a decent quality of life. This means that people should have enough money in their pockets, advice and support about managing their money effectively and access to reliable and safe sources of credit

The strategy identified four key themes which were developed in conjunction with partners. These were:

  • access to free money advice
  • access to affordable credit
  • increasing access to financial products and services; and
  • improving the way people manage their money.

Two further objectives were identified:

  • working more collaboratively with partners which recognised that financial inclusion is an issue that can only effectively be tackled in collaboration with other organisations.
  • income maximisation, ensuring residents claim the benefits they are entitled to.

The overriding aim of the strategy therefore, was to ensure that residents had more money in their pocket by managing their money better, having access to advice and support and where appropriate access to benefits that they are eligible for.

General, debt and money advice services

Over a period of years, Norwich City Council had put in place a number of grant arrangements with third sector organisations to provide general, money and debt advice for residents given the levels of need and poverty in the city.

However, historically, not all of these had clear objectives or performance criteria that could be closely linked to the council’s corporate priorities.

In order to ensure that future grant awards were evidence based and drew upon the knowledge of the providers and other partners in the City, a debt and money advice needs assessment was developed on a collaborative basis that involved providers, partners and other relevant agencies. This would build a comprehensive picture of need and would be used to inform commissioning decisions about future service provision.

Providers and other key partners in the city all contributed information to the needs assessment enhancing ownership of the document.

It was recognised at the start of this work, that advice services could no longer afford to resource ‘revolving door’ clients (those who have the same problems and seek the same help on repetitive occasions), with more time needed to be devoted to affecting behavioural change in the majority of the clients.

A needs assessment was completed with providers and partners that evidenced significant issues of debt in the city and local evidence to indicate the link between debt, poverty and poor health.

The assessment identified a number of priorities including:

  • dealing with debt and supporting people to take control of their debts;
  • the provision of advice, or assistance should be free at the point of contact;
  • services should be widely-publicised, be accessible, recognising that individuals may not be able to travel to access them;
  • providers should cross refer clients where there are multiple needs;
  • benefit take-up should be encouraged and targeted;
  • a need for increased access to debt relief order provision;
  • more effective collaborative working, referrals and information sharing; and preventative measures which stop people going into debt are important.

Using the needs assessment a set of outcomes were developed with partners, which were used to commission the council’s debt and money advice services for 2012 through to 2014.

The needs assessment was refreshed in 2013 and was again used to inform the commissioning of these services for a further year.

A link to the needs assessment can be found here.

The financial inclusion strategy can be found here.