No-one knows what our exit from the EU will mean for poverty in the UK, any more than anyone knows what else will transpire.
So uncertainty continues and decision-making on what we will do in response to Universal Credit and hardship impacting thousands in our hardest pressed communities has been in hiatus. So I've been reaching out to housing providers, for starters, in the hope of connecting and mitigating the leadership vacuum from Parliament.
As we proved, Quids in! at least has not been resting on its laurels. A new publication, Future-Proof Your Finances - Managing Your Money In An Uncertain World, was announced in March. We opened the first two 'Quids In Centres' bringing our money help to life 'in the room'. And work continued on our money email service for claimants, social tenants and low paid earners.
“The only thing that is certain is uncertainty.” On Friday (8th March), Theresa May acknowledged the state of limbo the UK finds itself in as it tries to find the best path towards Brexit. Aiming to rally support for her latest attempt to get her deal through Parliament, she said a No vote would only prolong a kind of decision-making hiatus where none of us feel we can plan for the future.
While our customers are not sure which way to jump when it comes to addressing poverty, foodbanks have seen no let up in demand and Universal Credit is still on course for full roll-out by 2023. Yet indecision rules. When we polled our subscriber list of social tenants, benefit claimants and low income earners to ask how they felt Brexit will impact their finances, almost half (46.5%) are worried and a quarter (25.9%) are unsure about what will happen.
We cannot wait for certainty. Hardship just deepens. To deliberately misquote from history: The only thing necessary for the triumph of poverty is for good people to do nothing.
I am pleased to announce the launch of a new product from Quids in!. The Future-Proof your Finances guide. This 32-page financial resilience magazine includes the best of everything we've learnt in our ten years delivering financial capability messages to low income households. Readers will be more ready for whatever money shocks life throws at them, be that redundancy, rocketing prices or Universal Credit. It focuses on the habits and choices people can make to avoid the pitfalls. It starts with our familiar ‘3 Bs’ to cover banking, budgeting and being online, and then expands to building a savings buffer, spending less and earning more. Find out more.
Quids In's work on digital comms puts us at the head of the curve for engaging social tenants, claimants and low income earners. The Civic Innovation Challenge award we won from the Mayor of London recognised our vision for maximising reach and impact among an audience not well-served by 'influencers' using social media and email. While moneysavingexpert, MoneyMagpie, MoneyMail, and the like, promote ISAs and 0% interest credit cards, ours are about using benefit checkers, prioritising bills like rent and finding work, for example. We help landlords, authorities and other stakeholders use electronic media to improve the wellbeing of less digitally confident communities.
Our twice-monthly Quids In Readers Club email service goes beyond circulating information. Customers licence and send our emails, benefiting from our monitoring of readers' engagement, interaction and financial wellbeing. Satisfaction surveys, alongside data on industry standards, help us inform customers' perceptions of 'what good looks like'. It can also be integrated with digital inclusion strategies and support financial capability and employment programmes. We co-design content to maximise relevance to recipients and help promote the service with artwork, social media and web content. Print and web-based marketing alone, however, generate minimal responses so we make available our behavioural insights and GDPR compliance knowhow to facilitate 'opt-in by default' approaches. For more information, contact Rhiannon.
I have talked about seizing the initiative on tackling poverty while government remains in decision-making hiatus. Where might there be quick wins on poverty for the new financial year?
In 2018, Quids in! decided to take all we know about helping people on low incomes into communities as training workshops. Working with Clean Slate Training & Employment CIC in Bath, we piloted the 3 Bs money skills programme (more here). Eighty people set goals and planned actions to improve their financial resilience. They explored developing positive habits, tried online tools and discussed how Universal Credit works (and doesn’t). They gained confidence and a sense of financial resilience. Some opted for Clean Slate’s employability support and found work and others returned to get on top of their budget. One individual ended up thousands better off: See Joanne’s story here.
As a result, in March we launched our first two 'Quids In Centres' and a bold goal to open five across the UK over the next year. The first is naturally Bath. The second is in Gloucestershire where Clean Slate successfully won funding from the Longleigh Foundation to deliver money skills support and training to residents in Gloucester, Stroud and Cheltenham.
As the government prepares to hand over £51 million to Citizens Advice to provide support to Universal Credit claimants, there are no signs that the system will be abandoned or majorly reformed. Our Universal Credit Guide has now sold over 300,000 copies, (twice the number of UC claimants seen by Citizens Advice so far), and we are preparing our tenth edition with the latest updates from April. Early bird discounts are available this month on pre-orders. Further details here.