Can your church help people tackle their money worries?

09 SEP 2020
Sarah Wallace headshot
Sarah Wallace
Programme Director, Just Finance Foundation

"Churches can provide that supportive network; that sounding-board. They can help people feel valued, as all equal in the eyes of God, giving them back some of the self-esteem that is eroded by financial problems, just when they need it most."

In our latest blog, Sarah Wallace, Programme Director of Just Finance Foundation, provides advice and encouragement to help churches join the frontline in the fight to tackle money worries in their communities. 

These are financially precarious times. 

• Redundancies have increased fivefold compared to the same time last year

• The number of new household Universal Credit applications reached 2.5 million by June

3 million people face bailiff visits due to council tax arrears

These are worrying numbers. Life after lockdown will be bleak for many families in the UK, including some who may not have experienced the stress of money worries before.  

When times are tough, we all need advice and support, but most of us aren’t generally very comfortable talking about money. There is a still a stigma attached to needing financial help, and our culture of awkwardness stops most of us mentioning money in anything but the broadest terms.

This means that our worries about personal finances are being played out behind closed doors. There has been a significant rise in google searches and internet traffic for queries on debt, redundancy and benefit entitlements. Data from StepChange, Citizens Advice and our own Financial Help Hub and Money First Aid Kit show exponential rises in traffic on webpages tackling financial worries. 

It is wonderful that information is so readily available online, but once someone has accessed it, what should they do next? Most of us prefer to talk these things over with a sympathetic ear, someone who can help us to take the best path through the advice on offer, or who can tell us if we’ve stumbled onto something that looks legitimate, but actually isn’t. 
 
This is where churches can make all the difference. Churches can provide that supportive network; that sounding-board. They can help people feel valued, as all equal in the eyes of God, giving them back some of the self-esteem that is eroded by financial problems, just when they need it most. 

As trusted members of the community, church staff and volunteers can signpost to the legitimate online resources and best places to go for help, helping people to sift through the huge variety of websites all claiming to know the best thing they can do with their money. 
 
Churches and other religious organisations have been at the forefront of the pandemic response. They have expanded their food banks when others have struggled to remain open, and led mutual aid groups to ensure no-one in the community is forgotten. That means they can help people address their financial concerns in the wider context of everything they may be going through, rather than in isolation. 
 
At Just Finance Foundation, we are proud to be working with Allchurches Trust to offer the Covid Cash Course to churches and other community groups, of all faiths and none. The course gives clergy, community workers and volunteers up-to-date knowledge of the practical implications of current government policy, and guides them to resources and support that their communities can access.
 
By working together, sharing our knowledge and resources and their trust and connections within their communities, we can reach people that would otherwise be struggling alone. Our course is the only one of its kind, and it provides current, reliable information on finances during Covid-19. 
 
With the financial support of Allchurches, we are expanding our reach, and will now be offering locally tailored courses in the North East of England, Nottinghamshire, West Midlands and South Devon. 
 
Working in partnership, we can be sure that advisors have all the information they need to support their communities, and that those communities can lean on the support of the church to help people stick to their plans, re-build their confidence, or even just have their first ever conversation about money.
 
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