Stephan Wiedmer: Finances not adding up? Workshops with practical advice for those struggling

crossadA guest post by Stephan Wiedmer, the Hammersmith Branch Manager for Crosslight Advice

Hammersmith & Fulham is a wonderful place to call home, but life in London comes with a high price tag and many of us  find our budget just doesn’t add up at the end of the month. Over a quarter of  households in the borough live on less than £20,000 a year and almost a third of people rely on housing benefits.  As a local charity, Crosslight Advice supports people who are struggling to pay essential bills such as rent, council tax and utility bills. Our aim is to help people manage their money better, no matter how much or little someone has.

We have created  Money Course Essentials, which is a short, friendly workshop packed with useful advice to help anyone to manage their money better. We hope to reach as many people as possible in the borough, especially those transferred to the new benefit system Universal Credit. This is paid monthly not weekly, and new claimants have to wait up to seven weeks or more to be paid. Another big change is that in most cases the housing element (former housing benefits) gets paid to the claimant and no longer to the landlord. This means budgeting and managing finances becomes an even more important skill. The Money Course Essentials workshop covers topics such as building your own budget, saving money and ways to manage your bills and day-to-day spending, making sure you have money put aside each month to cover essential bills.

We run two workshops a month in the St Paul’s Centre by Hammersmith Broadway. They are small and informal, with plenty of opportunity to share questions and suggestions, get support and advice. So far, everyone who’s been on one has said they would recommend the course to a friend – you can’t say better than that.

Here’s what a few people said:

“I was at rock bottom and now I have light in my life”

“I feel like a weight has been lifted. I can’t wait to get started [on building a budget]”

“I like that anything I was not sure of was explained in way that I can understand. I feel unburdened and more relaxed.”

> To book your free place here or call 020 7052 0318.

Crosslight also offers free face-to-face debt advice, education, practical assistance and ongoing support.  Our focus is on empowering clients to take back control of their finances permanently, not just helping them out of a short term crisis, and we work with clients for as long as it takes to get them back on their feet and work independently.

We are always looking for more people willing to join our committed group of 25 volunteers to help people in our neighbourhood. Please contact us if you are interested in  volunteering  –  call 020 7052 0318 or email info@crosslightadvice.org.

 

The Big Society, and Greenhalgh’s Community Champions

higton2A guest post from Mark Higton

On Thursday I was privileged to attend the 4th Annual Community Champions Tri-Borough Conference, which celebrated the work of the Community Champions programme – the purpose of which is to connect communities and residents with local services by utilising the passion and experience of local volunteers to improve health and wellbeing, and to reduce inequalities. It was a significant event, celebrating the achievements of our volunteers, with over 320 delegates in attendance from across Hammersmith, Kensington & Chelsea, and Westminster.

champoneI was moved by the public and private testimonies of our volunteers, of George Shaw (Notting Dale), who spoke of his happiness at being able to listen and engage with people, solving problems and improving his skills and knowledge in the process; Heba Al-Rifaee (Old Oak), whose involvement as a Maternity Champion has allowed her to help neighbours, make friends, and to give something back to Britain; David Rice (World’s End), who compared the event to ‘the Brit Awards’, and marvelled at how the isolated and vulnerable have been reached as community barriers were broken down; and Julie Isaac (Queens Park), who read a beautiful poem dedicated to her fellow Community Champions.

The programme was launched in White City, in 2008, as part of the Dept. of Communities and Local Government’s “London-wide Well-London Programme”. As such it was a direct response to David Cameron’s call for Big Society solutions. It was supported by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, led ably by Stephen Greenhalgh, who had also anticipated the need to devolve the commissioning of services to the local community. The levels of engagement exceeded all expectations, and by late 2012 the programme was expanded. Its objectives being to:

  • Implement effective and sustainable community-led approaches, particularly in areas of greatest need
  • Engage and invest in people to build and strengthen good health and wellbeing for their communities
  • Building confidence, knowledge, skills and capacity of local people
  • To work in partnerships with local organisations and agencies to provide volunteering and employment opportunities

champtwoIt was at this juncture, with the support of Councillor Joe Carlebach, that the initiative was launched in Old Oak, and I became involved as a local authority representative. I reflected with some bemusement therefore, when a Hammersmith and Fulham Labour Councillor spoke of their pride on Thursday, ‘in leading the way’, as Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster announced that they intend to adopt Hammersmith’s devolved commissioning and delivery model.

Could this be the same devolved delivery structure that was devised by Stephen Greenhalgh, providing greater funding for areas with long-term social issues than ever before? The one which the Labour group were bitterly opposed to, campaigned against, and pledged to revoke, in stark contrast to their enthusiasm for (Cameron’s) Community Champions? A week, never mind three years, is a long time in politics, but thank you Stephen Greenhalgh!

There have been many accomplishments this past year, but I would like to specifically mention the Maternity Champions programme that was trialled at Old Oak. It was a national first, and a fantastic success. It enables volunteers at Community Centres and Queen Charlotte’s Hospital to sign post services required by mothers and new families, and to provide help and support regarding breast feeding. One of our Champions has commenced a foundation course in Midwifery, and with the Borough-wide (and National) extension of the programme it is hoped that she will be the first of many. We also have high hopes for other programmes that are in development.

As we approach the fifth year of the Tri-borough programme, it is no mean thing to reflect that Hammersmith’s share of volunteer Awards on Thursday accounted for 50%, with 33% in total going to Old Oak. I cannot underline enough what an incredible achievement and success story the programme is, with many volunteers gaining formal qualifications in ‘understanding health and wellbeing’, ‘mental health’, and ‘child birth and beyond’ whilst helping to identify and commission new services that meet local health and social care needs, and resolve long term structural problems.

I would like to thank all our Community Champions for all their wonderful hard work, as well as H&F’s Community Champion’s group: Helen Rowe and the Urban Partnership (Edward Woods), Ewa Kasjanowicz and Kim Barclay (Parkview), Carla Martin, Caroline Lister and Carmella Obinyan (Old Oak), and Mary Hennessy of the original White City pilot scheme. It is interesting to reflect that the facility funding for some of the Centres are now uncertain (having been extended for just 12 months), as the Labour Group look to potentially reduce the number of Hubs from 5 to 3 across the borough.

I would also like to extend my best wishes and hopes to Hammersmith’s new Community Champions, and as the programme is expanded further, to the new teams joining the group: Barbara Shelton (Addison), Sarah Benjamin (West Kensington & Gibbs Green) and the Field Road team (Bayonne and Field Road).

If you know of anyone that would like to get involved, please get in touch via this link.

Donate your old (but still functioning) laptops to the homeless at Hammersmith Library

librarywindowThe Laptops for the Homeless Support Initiative aims to curb homelessness by working with businesses and collection sites in and around London. The latest collection site is Hammersmith Library in Shepherd’s Bush Road.

Social Enterprise SocialBox.Biz and homelessness charity, Thames Reach, work together to place these laptops in the hands of homeless already registered with accommodation services.

Hammersmith Library is one of many stepping up to assist in the Laptops for the Homeless Initiative. By partnering with SocialBox.Biz, they are providing their operation location as a collection site for any individuals, businesses, and corporations looking to re-home their outdated, yet still functioning laptops.

SocialBox.Biz then re-homes the donated, usable laptops to disenfranchised members of society. The initiative gives registered homeless a chance to rejoin today’s digital world.

Without access to the Internet the homeless stand no chance of rejoining society. SocialBox.Biz identified this paradox, and is actively pursuing partners for establishing a donation collection network throughout the UK.

https://www.socialbox.biz/homeless-support/

Phone: 0843 289 5722.

Westfield launches community grants scheme

ArtsFest-2015-e1449239921720As Westfield London’s expansion progresses they continuing to engage with the local community and  work as a positive force for change in the local area – whether that is through direct financial contributions, the significant job opportunities the centre provides, or the further inward investment that is attracted to the White City Opportunity Area.

As part of its expansion plans, Westfield London has recently launched a new community grants initiative, something that the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham is supporting. It is part of Westfield’s commitment to ensure that the investment in the shopping centre is felt across the local area. The community grants scheme will support local organisations, who are looking for funding of up to £1,000 with up to 20 projects being selected per year over the next two years.

At each round of funding, the community grants panel, led by representatives from local businesses, the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, local organisations and Westfield London, will judge bids based on applications on three separate themes:

  • Innovative and creative approaches to employment, entrepreneurship and training
  • Opportunities for young people aged 16-24
  • Support for people with disabilities or health problems

Successful applicants should fit in with at least one of these themes and applications should be submitted no later than 17 June.

More information on the community grants scheme is available here.

Great news. I have encouraged the Sulgrave Club and the Grove Neighbourhood Centre in the Ravenscourt Park Ward to apply – not doubt there will be lots of competition with lots of good ideas for helping the community.

Hammersmith United Charities to take part in Open Garden Squares weekend – June 18th-19th

hucflowerAs part of Open Garden Squares Weekend, the residents of John Betts House and Sycamore House invite you to enjoy their special gardens.

logokeyThere are over 200 gardens to explore across 25 London boroughs ranging from the historic and traditional to the new and experimental.

Tickets for the whole weekend cost just £12 and children under 12 go free, from Open Squares.

Tickets on the door for John Betts House and Sycamore Gardens are £4 for each garden. Proceeds go to London parks and open spaces.

JOHN BETTS HOUSE

Rylett Road W12 9NJ

The gardens are a platform for workshops and social events enabling people to work in their own part of the garden, or to simply relax and enjoy.

Last year, they were placed third with a Silver Gilt in the Small Community Garden category of the London Garden Society’s 2015 competition.

• Open 2pm – 5pm

• Homemade cakes and plant sale

• Disabled lavatories on site

SYCAMORE HOUSE
Sycamore Gardens W6 0AS

The sheltered housing gardens continues to win awards. Sycamore House won the Large Community Garden category of the London Garden Society 2015 annual competition.

• Open 2pm – 5pm

• Tea, coffee, homemade cakes, plant and craft stall.

• Disabled lavatories on site

About Hammersmith United Charities

Helping local people in Hammersmith

They support local people to build their confidence and resourcefulness, develop their own talents and skills, connect people together and strengthen relationships and neighbourliness within and across diverse communities.

They do this by managing vibrant sheltered housing communities for older people, funding a community based grants programme, including the Wormholt & White City Big Local, and by working with local people, organisations and businesses.

A great way to show your support for their work for the next 400 years is to leave a legacy.

Contact HUC at : Sycamore House, Sycamore Gardens, London W6 0AS Tel: 020 8741 4326

Info@hamunitedcharities.com Charity number: 205856

Also taking part in the Open Garden Squares Weekend in Hammersmith and Fulham are the following:

All Saints Vicarage Garden, Fulham
Saturday: 11:00–16:00
+Sunday: 14:00–17:00

Fulham Palace
Saturday: 11:00–16:00

Fulham Palace Meadows Allotments
Saturday: 11:30–15:30

Ravenscourt Park Glasshouses
Saturday: 10:00–16:00

The River Cafe

William Morris Society
Saturday: 14:00–17:00

More details here.