I’m afraid I am going to start with the C word. It is October, Christmas is fast approaching and Moneyline customers are getting ready for it. Quarterly savings account statements have just been sent out, so the Moneyline office is seeing a stream of customers coming in to withdraw their savings with most looking forward to starting their Christmas shopping.
People are also coming in to ask about how to get a loan. A loan is only approved after checking a customer’s identification and income & expenditure to see if a loan is affordable. It then takes 3-4 days for the money to reach their bank account. However, Moneyline doesn’t just offer loans and savings. When looking at an application, the loan officers also assess whether a Money Adviser could help. For example, they can see if benefits are not being paid that a customer may be entitled to, if they would be eligible for utility discount schemes or if they are making payments to creditors and have debts. For these and many other reasons, customers are referred to the in house Your Benefits Are Changing Money Adviser for free and independent money advice. This helps customers in so many ways.
One customer rang today to say thank you because a loan officer spotted that she would be eligible for a discount on her water bill and that she wasn’t receiving Tax Credits. After talking to the Money Adviser it was confirmed that she was eligible and she was helped to apply. She is now £60 per week better off by claiming Tax Credits, is saving on her water bills through Welsh Water Assist and will receive £135 via the Warm Home Discount in the New Year. This has made a massive difference to her and, through coming in for a loan, she has actually found herself financially better off.
Moneyline Cwmbran has been nominated for a ‘Torfaen’s Most Recommended’ award and customers are completing voting forms with lovely comments such as ‘friendly staff'; ‘non judgemental'; ‘love that you can get money advice as well’; ‘ you really help people’.
Our office is in the middle of the town centre, so customers can easily pop in to ask questions or just say hello, and this certainly adds to the good relationships we have with customers. Today one customer popped in to introduce us to her new baby – cue oohing and ahhing all round in an office of mums.
As the Money Adviser, my day today has included appointments for debt advice, a telephone enquiry for a benefit check, processing applications for Welsh Water Assist and Customer Assistance Fund, an application for Discretionary Housing Payment for someone affected by the 'bedroom tax', talking to customers about Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment, and searching for grants (it’s amazing how excited I got at seeing ‘army pension’ on an income sheet at the thought of the grant options I could look into for this particular client). And, on a personal level, thinking about how unprepared I am for the C word compared to our customers.
Your Benefits Are Changing is a Community Housing Cymru project and is funded by the Big Lottery.