Hammersmith and Fulham - increasing financial capability
London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham Council sees increasing financial capability as a way of tackling the economic determinants of health. It has formed partnerships with the third sector to produce information and face-to-face trainings for both staff and its most disadvantaged residents.
Key learnings for other councils
Hammersmith and Fulham considers coordination and partnership to be vital to a strategic approach to financial capability.
Systematic needs analysis and coordination of targeted interventions were the deciding factors in the setting up of the Financial Capability Group. This is located within the Economic Development team.
Hammersmith and Fulham has some of the poorest residents in the capital. In the borough, 27 per cent of people live in poverty - compared with 17 per cent in England and 20 per cent in inner London as a whole.
Economic deprivation is highly correlated with ill-health, stress and lack of wellbeing. In 2009, Hammersmith and Fulham saw that several voluntary-sector organisations were planning financial capability work as part of tackling economic deprivation and improving wellbeing.
The council decided that a strategic approach was needed to coordinate this work and ensure that it was targeted where it would be most effective. The council is keen to work in partnerships to ensure that more of the borough's residents are financially included.
As financial products become more sophisticated, it is even more important for consumers to have the right skills to engage with financial services. However, it also recognises the low levels of financial capability, especially among young people.
Who was involved?
The initial needs analysis and coordination has been done by the council's Economic Development team. This is now working with:
- the Consumer Financial Education Body (CFEB)
- a number of different council departments
- six voluntary-sector organisations currently receiving support through the Third Sector Investment Fund (TSIF).
The problem and how it was tackled
The council surveyed the support currently and potentially available in the borough from the statutory and voluntary sectors. This enabled a needs analysis to be done by a council working group and an action plan to be formulated.
Following the needs analysis, the action plan for financial capability work by the council focuses on three elements of support for residents and staff:
Information dissemination - through leaflets, booklets and guides, and on the Internet, including the council's website.
Specific actions included distribution to children's centres of the Consumer Financial Education Body's ‘Parents' guide to money' and a booklet on the financial implications of redundancy.
The council also distributed a range of ‘Money Made Clear' guides to libraries, children's centres, workplaces and electronically for the council's own staff. This included links to the guides on the council website; and promotion of the guides to key strategic groups, including the:
- 14 to 19 partnership
- local Public Service Board
- Advice Working Forum.
Workplace seminars and face-to-face sessions - to support staff in their own financial capability and help raise staff confidence in identifying clients with money problems and signposting them to appropriate sources of help.
Specific actions include arrangements for the CFEB to produce a range of seminars and bookable advice sessions for existing staff.
Also included is:
- training in ‘financial literacy' for the 80 people participating in the council's Future Jobs Fund employment scheme
- similar training sessions for participants in the council's Apprentices and Volunteers schemes
- training for teachers, youth workers and other intermediaries working particularly with young people, lone parents and low income families.
Money Guidance - face-to-face help and guidance from a money guide.
An appointment service is based at the town hall, in children's centres, Citizens' Advice Bureaux (CAB), housing associations and other settings. Specific actions include liaising with the CFEB to ensure that the money guides are working from the most beneficial locations in a range of organisations whose ‘footfall' of clients is sufficient to justify the intervention.
The council is liaising with the Third Age Foundation (TAF) to facilitate seminars for older people on the financial aspects of approaching retirement and other issues.
There have been discussions with CFEB about using its data model for measuring vulnerability to consequences of poor financial decision making. This can be mapped to local postcodes in order to target financial capability work to where it is most needed.
In addition, there are a number of services already being delivered by third sector organisations which receive some support from the council, including the following.
General money management workshops and seminars - delivered by Hammersmith and Fulham CAB. These are intended both for staff working with people experiencing financial difficulties and residents. They include:
- frontline workers at the Community Interpretation, Translation and Access service (CITAS)
- the East European Advice Centre (EEAC)
- Hammersmith and Fulham Homes, the borough's housing management organisation (HMO)
- Hammersmith and Fulham Refugee Forum (HFRF)
- sexual health and HIV workers - the last funded by the primary care trust (PCT)
- end-users of services through children's centres, the borough's credit union, the Family Solutions partnership, the TAF and CAB.
Outcomes and impact
All of the council-funded initiatives will undertake an annual and final evaluation of their projects and this will include an assessment of the economic improvements to clients' circumstances, particularly in relation to gaining employment.
What could have been done better?
The council believes, in retrospect, that earlier contact with the CFEB would have been beneficial. Many local organisations had already been in contact with them to request a presence on their premises. Although this has not had a significant impact, it meant there was a missed opportunity to consider whether the locations and or organisations had the volume of clients to sustain a presence and provide benefit to the greatest number of residents.
The council's latest allocation of funding through its TSIF places greater emphasis on increasing financial capability and debt management support. The economic wellbeing and opportunity part of the fund has as a specific objective: “building financial capacity and inclusion so that residents take a more proactive and informed part in improving their economic circumstance”. The fund includes grants for this purpose to the CAB, the Fulham Legal Advice Centre and the credit union.
The council intends to play a key role in commissioning information, advice and guidance and training to increase the financial inclusion of residents. This will involve:
- money management
- budgeting and advice about choosing financial products
- initiatives that prevent and reduce debt.
The council sees its work in this area as being a contribution to its wellbeing power. It is also a contribution to reducing health inequalities through tackling the economic determinants of health.
Neil Wigglesworth, Regeneration and Housing Strategy
London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham
Page published October 2010.
8 November 2010