Talk Money Week: "It's okay to ask for help"
Denise Burch, Acting Head of Community Services, explains how people can get support through our Outreach Service, and why it’s always okay to ask for help.
With rising food costs, spiralling energy bills and growing uncertainty, more and more people are coming to us for advice around their finances.
The cost-of-living crisis is impacting lower income households the most, but we’ve also seen an increase in support requests from working households that have never had to ask for help before.
The first - and often the most challenging - step to getting help is acknowledging that you need it. We know this can be difficult for people who have never had this kind of support before, but we urge you to please get in touch if you're struggling.
Introducing our Outreach Service
Our Outreach Services offer advice and guidance for anyone who needs support in Essex, Thurrock, Havering and Tower Hamlets. We help people who need support with managing housing-related issues, so they can feel more secure and confident living independently.
Our customers meet with an outreach worker who can help them to identify what they would like to be supported with and plan realistic steps to achieve their goals. The length of our support varies depending on the needs of our customers. Some people only need one session to resolve their issues, but others may need up to six months of support.
“My support worker has been helping me out with things like PIP and getting someone to put handrails around my flat. I feel supported for the first time, I don't feel so helpless anymore,” said one of our customers.
Providing money advice
Money is one of the most common themes we help people with. We offer emotional and practical support, connecting people with financially-regulated agencies that will help them set up realistic payment plans.
We also help people apply for benefits. Many people don’t know they are entitled to benefits or how to claim them. Between June and September we helped people claim over £58k in benefits to help with their housing costs. We can also support people with mandatory reconsiderations and appeals if their benefits applications have been refused.
Often, the people we support have busy lives, with everything from work to looking after children and day to day tasks – that they can’t focus on financial matters. Money-related issues can quickly get out of hand if left alone. We have made our service flexible so that we can offer appointments at times that fit around the commitments of our customers.
We are also working with Essex County Council to help them deliver the ECC household support fund for people who need financial support. In the last three months we have supported over 150 people with top-ups on utilities and supermarket vouchers.
With rising costs, we’ve recently supported several families who have lost their homes without any fault on their part. Our teams have helped them find alternative accommodation and get financial support, as it is a huge upheaval and cost to move home unexpectedly.
We know how difficult it is for everyone at the moment and our outreach teams are working with partner agencies to ramp up support.
“The support has been fantastic and so beneficial to me. For the first time I feel someone is actually listening to me and working with me to make an improvement in my life. I feel like I am getting back on my feet. My outreach worker helps me stay focused and I have nothing but praise for the support I have received from Peabody. I feel she has saved my life,” commented one of our customers.
We also help people who are struggling to buy food for their families. We can refer them to local foodbanks or support them through our food pantries. Our food pantry in Havering has seen an increase in demand, with 595 people using the pantry in the last two months alone. Families are offered £25 worth of food for just £5 – which leads to huge savings over time.
“It’s a brilliant service – it really takes the weight off and covers staples. We could all do with a bit of extra help at the moment after the year we’ve had. The pantry is brilliant, really straightforward and I love the setup. You’ve got fresh ingredients and tinned stuff. There’s a bit of a stigma around asking for help but I think you should ask for help before it gets too much,” said one of our pantry users.
How to get support
We have lots of money-saving advice on our website, including information about checking your benefit entitlements, making a budget, reducing everyday costs and taking action on debt.
You can also refer yourself or someone else for support through our Outreach Service if you live in Essex, Thurrock, Havering or Tower Hamlets.
Peabody residents can request a free one-to-one consultation with our money advice specialists too.