Plan to help better manage money

Cllr Tristan Chatfield, Cabinet Member for Transparency, Openness and Equality at Birmingham City Council, writes on the upcoming launch of the Birmingham Financial Inclusion Partnership’s new strategy document (on June 28) and how it is being applied at a grassroots level…

In the current tough economic times, we hear all too often about the struggles of poverty and the inability for large numbers of people in this city to make ends meet.

For one of the richest countries in the world, this does not sit easily with me as the councillor with responsibility for matters including equality and community cohesion in Birmingham.

Everyone, regardless of where they live, should all have a fair chance in life – and despite the monetary pressures the public, private and other sectors face, by working in partnership we can make a positive difference.

And that’s where the Financial Inclusion Partnership’s refreshed strategy comes in. We are going to pilot a comprehensive package of activity in the St George’s area of Newtown under the project title of Financially Healthy Neighbourhoods.

The area has a number of challenges including barriers to accessing housing, a poor perception of safety and poor rankings when compared to other areas for income, employment, education, child poverty and health.

But by working together with other agencies including the likes of Severn Trent Water, the DWP, West Midlands Fire Service, Digital Birmingham and West Midlands Police, we have come up with a plan that covers a range of broad areas – with a vision to create opportunities for citizens to improve their financial wellbeing and digital skills so they can lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

Some of the highlights of our joint work in St George’s will include:

  • Financial products and services (affordable credit options, work to increase uptake of home insurance, increased numbers of Credit Union accounts, Illegal Money Lending Team training with schools)
  • Advice, information and financial education (Awareness-raising on Universal Credit, training for third sector/voluntary and faith organisations, promotion of Severn Trent social tariffs)
  • Food and fuel (energy efficiency advice, smart meter campaign, foodbank/crisis support awareness-raising, healthy and affordable eating messages to communities)
  • Strategic influence (Community Hub approach at the St George’s Community Hub, setting up residents forums, identifying/accessing funding streams, community events)
  • Employment, education, skills and training (DWP advice surgeries, adult education course promotion etc)
  • Digital inclusion (Increase Wifi access, training digital champions, training for residents, promotion of online council services, online budgeting tools, money saving option etc)

The council has previously made it clear that it believes every child, every citizen and every place matters. These are aims that all of our partners agree with, and we think the benefits of a joined-up and targeted approach will quickly become apparent and the improvement to the quality of life enjoyed in St George’s will be noticeable in the months and years ahead. The work will also act as a platform for us to help people in other parts of the city.

People from the area who are keen to find out more can do so at St George’s Fest, a community fun day being staged at St George’s Park, Uxbridge Street, on July 8 from 11am to 3pm.

There’ll be something for everyone of all ages at the event – from football to face painting to a bouncy castle to a St George’s rock wall climbing challenge. Away from the fun and games there’ll be a great chance to get involved with the financial inclusion plans and have a say in how they are shaped.

And for two lucky people who signing up and completing our digital and financial literacy course, a chance to win an Android table device – so there really is no excuse to pop along!

If anyone wants to find out any more about the scheme or the fun day, they should contact financialinclusionpartnership@birmingham.gov.uk

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