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Money Advice Centre opened by Bishop Graham

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David Lechmere, Chair of Trustees and Centre Manager said:

“Our involvement with St Francis over many years has made us aware that many people in our community are struggling with debt. We are also aware of how difficult it can be to fill in official forms to claim benefits, and so we want to help with that.  We also believe it is very important to take steps to prevent people from getting into debt in the first place, which is why we want to offer Financial Education.  Our services are completely free to all who need them and we see this as a very practical way of sharing God’s love in the community.  We hope that those we help will see something of that love reflected through us, and want to know more about it.

“We believe that this is the first Anglican church in the Diocese to offer this facility.  My dream (vision) is for there to be a network of churches able to help people in this way and quite honestly the parish system means that the Anglican church is well placed to provide this.  We are a relatively small church and are fortunate in having two qualified actuaries who have experience of Financial Services Regulation.  

“The CMA motto is ‘freedom from debt, hope for the future’.  This is exactly what we want to give people, the freedom to live the ‘life in all its fullness’ that Jesus came to bring.”

The Centre is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and there are three strands to its work

  1. Debt Advice for those who are struggling to pay their bills.  The centre will work with clients to look at income and outgo, choose the most appropriate solution for managing their debts, and negotiate with creditors.
  2. Help with claiming benefits and filling in forms.  The centre has available a laptop and a Broadband connection for those who don’t have those facilities and will help clients navigate their way through the complex online forms that need to be filled in.  The centre also has a phone available for those who need to speak to a government department or agency.
  3. Financial Education.  The Centre hopes to provide classes in Budgeting, Saving and Borrowing sensibly.  It has established a link with the Norwich Credit Union to help in this.

The Centre has been funded by generous support from the Cinnamon Network, the Paul Bassham Charitable Trust, Norwich Consolidated Charities, the Company of Actuaries Charitable Trust and the Diocese of Norwich Mission Fund.

The Centre is affiliated to the charity Community Money Advice (CMA) which has provided a wealth of help and resources.  CMA has a network of roughly 200 centres across the country, all providing debt advice to those who need it.

The Centre is staffed by volunteers and its services are available completely free of charge.  At present, the Centre has two Advisers, but would like to have more.

David said:  “My initial thoughts were that we could expand by having one or two more churches in the Deanery get interested.  Members could come to our Centre to train as debt advisers and those trained advisers would work from our centre to meet local needs.  The next stage would be for another church to set up as a “satellite” centre of the Heartsease Centre.  That would mean having its own office, but being covered by our regulatory permission and therefore under our management.  Finally, a church might then want to be a Centre in its own right, and we would be very happy to assist them in this process.”

The Centre is based at 94 Rider Haggard Road (next door to St. Francis church) and holds a regular drop-in session from 2pm to 4pm on a Wednesday afternoon. Anyone who needs help, or anyone who would like to volunteer to help in the Centre, is welcome to come to the Drop-In session or contact them via email or on 07765 739987.