Thank you to everyone who came along to our first SIC Quarterly Forum of 2023, with the session focused around the theme of “How we can break down barriers to enable more efficient engagement with communities struggling financially”, enabling organisations across the social sector to network and discuss these challenges with their colleagues during the session.
A big thank you in particular to our two speakers Senthan Balachandiran, Programme Manager at Fair4All Finance, and Leigh Smyth, Chair at the Digital Poverty Alliance, for their time and insights in sharing their organisations' initiatives to reach and engage with those facing financial hardship during the cost of living crisis.
With 17.5m people in the UK considered financially vulnerable, Fair4All Finance is working to scale up the availability of affordable credit and develop new products/services to meet the needs of struggling households. Senthan spoke about their recently launched awareness raising campaign to bring more people to responsible lenders in the Community Finance sector, such as credit unions, of whom 97% of the population are not aware of.
They are also introducing new products and services to help financially vulnerable individuals such as their No Interest Loan Scheme and Consolidation Loans with a partial bad debt guarantee to ensure loans are a right fit for those struggling with debt. This work also includes Fair4All Finance supporting the work of Lightning Reach, InBest and Policy in Practice to ensure people are aware of and access the financial support they are entitled to through benefits calculators and the Lightning Reach portal.
Leigh from the Digital Poverty Alliance shared some stark stats showing the scale of digital poverty in the UK, including that 26% of young people do not have access to a laptop, largely due to cost, 20% lack foundational digital skills, and 37% of over 75s still being digitally excluded.
Leigh then spoke about a solution being developed at the moment to address digital exclusion through the We Are Digital model which looks at how to reach individuals in their own communities and where they are in their journey to address the digital and financial divide. Leigh also highlighted other resources available to help digitally excluded people, including a planned cost of living helpline from We Are Digital, and a digital helpline set up by Lloyds Banking Group (accessible to anyone in the UK) in partnership with We Are Digital.
We also had some quick fire polls during the session asking attendees what they saw as the top barriers for people engaging with their services, with lack of awareness of support available (82%) and the stigma/embarrassment of asking for help (53%) highlighted as the top two barriers to support by attendees.
It was also great to see 82% of those on the call considered engaging with people/communities they were currently struggling to reach a strong priority for their organisation, with no one answering it was not a priority for them. The session concluded with allowing attendees to select to join different breakout rooms to discuss with their peers where they are seeing different barriers to accessing support within their own organisations, and any solutions to try to tackle these.
If you have any questions from this session or ideas for future workshops and Forums please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org