Community Money Matters

Citizens Advice Plymouth (CAP) has embarked on a pioneering project working with the Neighbourhood Care Networks to support the growing number of people in the city facing financial crisis. With news from the debt charity, Stepchange, that there are now 1.2 million people across the UK in severe debt and household borrowing due to the coronavirus at £10.3bn, so CAP has increased its commitment to helping those in Plymouth in financial difficulties.

The initiative, Community Debt Project First, is about to begin training the first wave of ‘community debt advice volunteers’ which will put trained advisors right in the heart of their communities. As, Tracy Ondrak, who is in charge of the project for the Citizen’s Advice Plymouth, says it’s about going to the people;

“We are working with all the Neighbourhood Care Networks in Plymouth to train ten individuals – who are already trusted within their communities – so that they can support people straightaway, give them advice and, most importantly, help them make an immediate change to their circumstances.”

What’s crucial about these ‘community debt advice volunteers’ says Tracy is that they are already part of their communities;

“We know that CAP can be seen as a bit ‘faceless’ while people in the hubs are already often known to people. They may be more likely to be able to get someone to do something about their financial circumstances if they can establish a rapport with them.”

The Stepchange report, Tackling the Coronavirus Personal Debt Crisis, also found that more than seven million people have borrowed money or fallen behind on utility or council tax payments with each person averaging arrears of £1,365 and debts of £1,577. Tracy believes there is worse to come:

“As we come out of lockdown, people are going to be left with the financial impact of all this and many are just going to bury their heads in the sand which will just cause more complications. But, by putting advisors in the community, we can help people sooner rather than later.”

If you – or anyone you know – is worried about money please contact 07377 262979.

Community Debt Advice Volunteers can help individuals apply for:

  • Council Tax Reduction of £27.86 (£334.32 a year)
  • Fuel top-up vouchers
  • A reduction to their water bill and/or to clear their arrears.
  • Help to acquire new white goods
  • Repairs to a Housing Association property