Pennysmart CIC uses technology to help foodbank users tackle debt problems
Pennysmart CIC is a social enterprise which offers money, debt and benefits advice to people on low incomes. Its support to people using a local food bank was greatly enhanced thanks to technology loaned from Digital Communities Wales.
Pennysmart CIC is a not-just-for-profit social enterprise set up to combat financial exclusion in low income communities. It does this through money, debt and benefits advice services delivered alongside training for frontline staff and volunteers working with community organisations.
One of Pennysmart’s local contracts is to provide a drop-in financial advice service for people using the local foodbank. 80% of foodbank users say that benefits delays and issues with debt are the reason why they need help from the foodbank, so having a money adviser in attendance is really useful.
Pennysmart realised that the service would be even better if the advisor had digital access to check benefits, find information about the local welfare assistance scheme, search for grants, obtain foodbank vouchers, and refer people to the Wales Discretionary Assistance Fund online.
DCW loaned Pennysmart two tablet devices and some laptops so that they could provide immediate money advice support to the foodbank users. Pennysmart also used the laptops to deliver fuel poverty awareness sessions in the community to 36 frontline staff and volunteers, so they could help vulnerable members of the community pay less for their energy bills.
Because Pennysmart has the tablets, its advisors can complete benefit checks immediately for beneficiaries of the foodbank centres. This increases the likelihood of them sorting out any benefit problems or delays more quickly than having to wait 6 to 8 weeks for an appointment at the local Citizens Advice Bureaux.
In the 3 months since Pennysmart was loaned the digital kit it has:
- Supported 20 foodbank beneficiaries with benefit or debt issues
- Given casework support to 43 households in financial difficulties
- Secured financial gains of more than £67,500, made up of £8,312 benefits secured, £723 bills reduced, £17303 debt managed, and £41203 debts written off.
- Delivered three fuel poverty awareness sessions to frontline staff with the potential to reach over 250 vulnerable households.