L&Q’s Pound Advice celebrates five years of helping thousands

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A service that’s helped thousands with money advice is five years old!

When you’re on a tight budget, every penny counts. But a service set up by leading housing association L&Q is helping its residents make each pound go further. This year L&Q’s Pound Advice service is celebrating five years of helping thousands to stretch their cash.

Kirsty (not her real name) from Croydon had been an L&Q tenant for eight years, living in a flat with her seven year old son. She had had a difficult time but always managed to pay her rent because she worked part-time. She was in receipt of working tax credit, child tax credit and child benefit.

Problems started when she received an overpayment of housing benefit; when it was being recovered she found she was entitled to just 50p per week. This led to Kirsty building up rent arrears, as well as a large water bill and council tax bill, for which payment was being chased. Kirsty turned to L&Q’s Pound Advice service for help.

L&Q is a major UK housing provider, with 90,000 homes across the country. Around one in five of the association’s residents feel that they are managing poorly financially. A similar proportion are not confident planning a monthly budget, and around two in five say they often run out of money. Since L&Q launched Pound Advice in 2012, the service has offered support to L&Q residents on more than 7,000 occasions in response to the increasing financial challenges faced by some residents, particularly those on low incomes. Last year alone, it helped 1,220 families with children.

The service, supported with £899,000 funding by the L&Q Foundation, works with Citizens Advice and Money Advice Plus to help people with concerns over issues like rent and council tax arrears, benefit entitlement, and money and fuel debt. Through its advice it has generated £25 million of extra income for customers over five years. Currently it is dealing with £11.6 million in debt management plans for customers.

Kirsty explained: “I really hadn’t wanted to attend the initial Pound Advice appointment but the advisors were really helpful and not at all judgemental.”

The advisor and Kirsty considered the options together, and made payments with her priority creditors. She was shown how to use template offer letters to send to her non-priority creditors offering payments. She was also helped to complete a grant form from her water company to help pay this bill. Kirsty left Pound Advice having learnt how to manage her debts now, and in the future if needed.

She said she would use the budgeting tools to help her keep track of her spending. Although she had been reluctant to attend the initial Pound Advice appointment, the whole process had been made easy. It had provided her with tools to make sure she can live within her means.

Kirsty said: “The whole experience was really useful, I am now back on track with my rent and Pound Advice advisors have shown me how to budget, as well as how to negotiate with my creditors. Really pleased I attended!”

Matthew Corbett, Assistant Director for the L&Q Foundation, said: “With 99 per cent of users saying they would recommend Pound Advice to someone else, this service is proving its worth. In the future, welfare benefit reforms are expected to put even more financial pressure on L&Q residents. We expect demand for financial advice and debt support to continue to rise; our continued commitment to Pound Advice, supporting residents to manage their money, benefits them, as well as us.”

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I am a retired carer with nine years of experience as layout editor of a local magazine in Somerset. I now live in Catford with my partner.

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