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Moneymates feature – 24 Housing

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Helen Shields, Business Manager, Bromford Support

Bromford Support's Moneymates service is providing a complete money management solution for vulnerable people. With next year's introduction of Universal Credit we examine the service more closely looking at its potential to support those struggling to deal with the changes.

Bromford Support is part of the Bromford Group, a Midlands-based social business with over 50 years of experience in providing support, training and employment opportunities that give customers− many of them vulnerable, disabled or disadvantaged − the chance to realise their potential and transform their lives and those of their families.

Bromford has provided its customers with appointee and money management services for a number of years, but 2012 saw the Moneymates service launch to the outside world as Helen Shields, Business Manager at Bromford Support explains.

Moneymates has evolved from an appointee-only service as social services departments are reducing numbers placed in residential care and increasing the number of people who are receiving care in their own homes. As such, we offer three tiers of support plus a bespoke package to meet individuals' varying needs and to deal with the complexities of managing the whole gambit of financial transactions.

Moneymates can help anyone manage their finances so as all housing associations gear up for welfare reform, it could be used to assist customers unable for whatever reason to manage their own money.

The first tier is the Appointee service. It assists individuals who need help to claim their benefits and support to manage their financial affairs. Bromford takes over responsibility for claiming and receiving the correct amount of benefits and allocating and directing as agreed. Most of our customers receiving this service live in registered care.

For those living in the community we have developed our Appointee Plus and Moneymentor services which offer all the benefits of the Appointee service but with some enhanced features. Appointee Plus assists customers in claiming housing benefit and working with landlords or care providers to ensure rent payments are made on time.

Our top of the range product, Moneymentor, also includes the development of a realistic weekly budget, setting up direct debits and identifying additional entitlements. Helen adds: "With Moneymentor we have specialist advisors who are able to help resolve any debt issues and effectively negotiate repayment plans or request monies are written off. Customers are actively encouraged to save and are also assisted to access the best value utilities."

The services are already proving successful. One customer recently fed back: "Bromford help me to look after my money. They pay my bills for me so I don't have to worry. They sorted out all of my debts and the best thing is I now have savings and can go on holiday."

The Moneymates team are particularly proud of their ability to innovate and create workable solutions for customers' difficulties. Their bespoke approach to service delivery sees individuals receive a personalised service and meet their unique needs. These can include managing direct payments through a bank account, paying invoices, monitoring the account and providing audit information to local authorities as required.

NHS, local authorities, care providers, age and health charities and mental health trusts are already on the list of commissioners with one care provider saying: "Bromford's appointee service is the best we have come across, the team are so friendly and efficient. They are our provider of choice, nothing is too much trouble for them."

All the Moneymates services use a virtual banking system where customers have their own dedicated account - this is helpful for those unable to open or manage their own bank accounts. Helen Shields admits that this is not a mainstream solution but may be the answer to those with the most chaotic lifestyles. She adds: "With 15 years of experience in financial support we fully understand the challenges associated with managing the affairs of vulnerable people and that's why a menu of options is so important.

"As Universal Credit comes into play, it's fair to say that some will be unable to cope with the new direct payment system. From our experience we believe Moneymates could potentially provide a very real solution."

One customer's story:

Adam, aged 24, is blind and has learning difficulties. A troubled lad, his finances were in dire straits before he came to Moneymates. He had lots of credit cards, contract phones and loans and had built up large phone bills. His circle of friends were a bad influence and took advantage of him. He had no savings.

The Moneymates team built up a good rapport with Adam, educating him how to budget and how to spend his money responsibly instead of wasting his money as he had done previously. We took him to the bank to sort out his accounts, sourcing the best deals on utility bills and setting them all up so that he doesn't need to worry about them.

Moneymates helped him to save which has been such a success that he now goes on two holidays a year to Jamaica and Amsterdam, has been able to buy music equipment and a laptop and software. We also helped him source specialist equipment.
We have excellent relationships with his care/support workers who previously had fraught conversations with Adam over money but that pressure has now been removed and Adam is much happier, better behaved and more responsible.

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