Financial resilience as vital tool in the cost of living crisis
Romoke, Thames Reach’s financial resilience worker, discusses her work preventing street homelessness through support maintaining finances
Now that a cost-of-living crisis is firmly upon us, we are all thinking about managing our money better. Romoke is Thames Reach’s financial resilience worker, and she provides advice for people in a range of circumstances, ultimately with the goal of preventing street homelessness.
‘Financial resilience’ is a phrase that could potentially mean a few different things. How does it work in practice?
My role as Thames Reach’s financial resilience worker involves supporting people with resolving issues around their financial situation, which are often around benefits, reducing risks of eviction and maximising income through claiming different types of benefits. Some people I work with are facing situations that are new to them, perhaps they are coming out of hospital, so are having to claim for the first time, and need advice.
People are often referred to me through our work with the Lambeth Living Well Network Alliance, who provide mental health support, so when people are on their recovery journey and going back into work, they may need help managing their income. During the lockdowns when many people were made redundant, some turned to low-paid work, so within the Employment and Skills team we help people find more suitable and sustainable employment.
Financial resilience could also look like more structured advice, as we deliver workshops on some of the things I’ve discussed, so we can reach more people. This enables people to be more knowledgeable about managing money. We’ve had really positive feedback from these sessions, showing that they are beneficial to helping people become more independent. At Thames Reach, we work with a range of people in different circumstances, for example people in supported housing may need help with working out how to pay rent and various charges, and having this knowledge is an up-skill for when they move into more independent accommodation, so they don’t feel overwhelmed.
What are some of the common challenges facing that people you work with?
My role is based within the Employment and Skills team, so we work with people across supported housing and the [Lambeth Living Well Network] Alliance, which means people are facing issues with various things alongside their finances, such as housing or mental health.
It is the barriers that are preventing people from entering work that we need to look at, such as debt issues. It’s important to be able to provide support for the things that are causing the financial instability, so I’m able to refer to colleagues, as there is expertise to address these needs. With the cost-of-living crisis, I am receiving more referrals of people in full-time work who need advice on saving money, information on which grants might be available for utility costs, and people with families.
How are you able to support people when financial instability is causing mental health and wellbeing issues?
Money issues and wellbeing issues are becoming more linked. When I meet with people, they are talking about their mental health in the context of having financial trouble. Sometimes people are already receiving support for their mental health, but sometimes I can refer them to services, as although they are linked, financial resilience practices aren’t a replacement for mental health support. It’s interesting that people seem to be more open to talking about emotional responses to financial situations. Being open when talking about money allows me to give the right advice; I have had feedback that people feel more empowered and in a better position to move forward once they have received some guidance.
How do you think your work will evolve in the coming months?
It’s important that I can still provide advice and reassure people through these difficult times. With the merging of benefits into the Universal Credit package, we will continue to work with other teams in Thames Reach to ensure this information is circulated. I am expecting to see changes to things such as benefits and debt management, but we are watching the situation closely so we can still give the best advice.