Image: More than Minutes
The area: Southport is a Victorian seaside town in Sefton. The neighbourhood is an area of contrasts with pockets of affluence alongside considerable economic disadvantage. The main retail area has many vacant properties reflecting the current economic climate. The programme is working to increase economic resilience by focusing on ways to reduce debt and financial difficulties.
Who we are: The Local Oversight Group in Central Southport is made up of local residents supported by Sefton CVS, Sefton Council and a number of stakeholder organisations.
What we have done: The Local Oversight Group organised a series of events in the neighbourhood to engage with stakeholders and residents in discussions about local concerns. Financial difficulties and debt were highlighted as having profound and negative impacts for some members of the community. There were also concerns that residents were not using the local services that could advise people struggling with money difficulties or signpost them to debt advice services.
The Local Oversight Group has adopted the name Southport Money Advice Group (SMAG). Resident Advisers have conducted a ‘mystery shop’, visiting local advice agencies to find out what is on offer. In March 2019, SMAG held a learning exchange event to raise awareness about the impact of debt and to enable agencies to share information about the services available locally. Visual minutes were produced to illustrate the themes covered.
Resilience enhancing emerging action
Over the lifetime of the project to date, a series of actions and resources have developed:
- A summary information sheet has been produced for debt services’ notice boards and advice service publicity has been changed in the light of feedback from residents.
- Access to payday loan websites from public access computers has been blocked.
- A successful application was made to the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), Stop Loan Sharks Community Fund, for a grant to deliver a drama-based workshop in local schools, highlighting the dangers of gambling and money lending from loan sharks. This reached 600 young people in the area.
- Citizens’ Advice has extended their offer and are now running a weekly drop in session. Beacon Counselling Trust are also delivering free counselling advice to individuals and families affected by problematic gambling.
- Resident Advisers have attended training including: Cash Smart Credit Savvy course delivered by Network Together Liverpool/CUF UK, Universal Credit briefing session delivered by the local DWP. Residents have also received training through Sefton CVS to support their role as Community Champions for a Community Connectors project delivered by Sefton CVS.
- A short film warning of the dangers of illegal money lending was co-produced by Migrant Workers Sefton Community, England Illegal Money Lending Team, Sefton Council and Handstand Films. This can be viewed below or on vimeo, here.
SMAG are also focusing on awareness raising, training and information. They are to develop (i) the understanding of debt and financial advice element of current training provision and (ii) the financial advice ‘Money Matters’ pages of the Sefton Directory website to provide more accessible information for non-specialist staff and for local residents who are experiencing financial difficulties.
Neighbourhood academic lead: Fiona Ward; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org