FSA and Barclays endorse new financial inclusion network
The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has launched a new online financial inclusion network to help housing professionals share ways to help tenants manage their money better and avoid falling into debt.
The new community network, which has been praised by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and Barclays, allows housing professionals to share ideas and initiatives which help tenants to open bank accounts, access affordable credit, obtain money advice and become more financially aware. Examples of good practice include a housing organisation employing a dedicated Money Advisor, which has reduced rent arrears and achieved 100 per cent satisfaction from tenants using the service.
The CIH Practice Network on Financial Inclusion is open to housing workers, credit union staff and money and benefits advisors and is the first forum of its kind specifically for housing providers to collect good practice in this relatively new field. The network is the latest addition to a range of CIH services to support housing professionals to promote financial inclusion with their residents.
Chris Pond, FSA Director - Financial Capability, commented: " We are very pleased to have supported this important project, and to have worked with the CIH since 2007. We believe that providing housing professionals with a primary source of information and networking ability through this new online financial inclusion network will enable them to take a real step forward in helping their tenants to manage their money."
Rachel Herbinson, Community Investment Manager for Barclays said "We are delighted to support this valuable project. At Barclays we are committed to helping consumers better understand and manage their finances. By supporting this project with CIH we are able to help housing association professionals embed financial inclusions principles through the way they work. The online financial inclusion network will help organisations ultimately bring real and tangible benefits to their tenants."
The FSA and Barclays fund two full-time Financial Inclusion Advisors based at CIH, whose work with housing organisations reaches some of the most vulnerable and low-income households in the UK. A recent independent evaluation by Ipsos MORI commissioned by the FSA praised the effectiveness of their advisory work and concluded that an online forum would enable housing organisations to share best practice and examples of their own work. The evaluation stated: "All affordable housing providers expressed a high level of satisfaction with the service. They thought the advisors were helpful, responsive and easy to initially contact, and then work with. They said the advice was relevant and useful in helping them develop and implement their financial inclusion work."
The two advisors have supported over 150 housing organisations during the first year of operation to implement financial inclusion strategies and put in place financial inclusion initiatives for tenants, including linking to other housing organisations, local credit unions and advice agencies.
Paul O’Connor, CIH Financial Inclusion Advisor for England and Wales, said: "The community network is a free resource where housing providers can access the latest information on financial inclusion. They can also share ideas and good practice with other housing providers across the UK. Most housing organisations have small teams and limited resources to tackle financial inclusion and they need quick and convenient ways to find out what works well. The online network does this very effectively and compliments our face to face meetings and telephone support."
Vicky Williams, Income Management Team Leader at Brighton and Hove Council, said: "There are pockets of good work in financial inclusion and lots of small initiatives going on. A network is a way of bringing housing providers together to share what works as well as encouraging landlords to get involved in financial inclusion for the first time, by giving them a head start. A forum that allows people to network is very positive and the more joined up we can be with other landlords, advice services and providers such as credit unions, the better it is for tenants and for the local economy."
Sarah Pratley, Financial Inclusion Development Officer at Cottsway Housing Association said: "We have been promoting home contents insurance with our residents over the last few months. I am keen to see if there are any new initiatives out there to raise the number of take ups, and it’s great that there is one place I can go now for up to date information on issues such as Home Insurance and The Saving Gateway."
Jacqui Mather, Welfare Benefits and Money Adviser at Melville Housing Association, said: "The on-line forum will be a very useful source of information. I already use Welfare Benefits and Money Advice sites so the addition of the Financial Inclusion Network will be great. Seeing what others are doing is a big help and makes you feel part of a wider network."
Fiona Douglas, from Housing Rights in Northern Ireland, said: "I think it is a great one stop resource."
2. Ken Dow is the CIH Financial Inclusion Advisor for Northern Ireland and Scotland and Paul O’Connor is the Financial Inclusion Advisor for England and Wales. They are based at the Chartered Institute of Housing and their posts are funded by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and Barclays. They offer free advice and practical guidance to housing organisations on financial inclusion. To contact a CIH Financial Inclusion Advisor email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org .