Southwark Council partners with the Money Adviser Network, referring customers mainly for rent or council tax arrears. This provides immediate assistance, while building a picture of who in the borough is in particular need and plan support for the future.
Southwark is a London Borough south of the Thames, home to landmarks such as Tower Bridge, Borough Market and The Shard. The borough has one of the fastest growing populations in the UK, with 144,000 domestic properties.
Alongside more affluent areas, Southwark has some of the most deprived wards in the country and social housing makes up a larger proportion of their dwellings than any other local authority in England and Wales. This makes the Council the largest social landlord in London, with one of the youngest populations in the country (58 per cent of residents are under 35) and one of the highest, annual population turnovers. Deprivation, a younger population and a majority of renters are all factors which drive levels of over-indebtedness in the area in addition to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Southwark then faced the challenge of providing quick and reliant access to debt advice to an increasing number of residents.
The context above is why the Council began partnering with the Money Adviser Network (MAN). The approach fitted well with its ethos and the wider processes it had already put into place, such as use of the Standard Financial Statement and an internal, managed single view of debt team. To complement the referral process the council holds debt recovery action whilst a customer is receiving debt advice as well as utilizing the Money Adviser Network weekly feedback reports to follow up with customers when required.
Southwark Council has so far referred over 500 customers to the MAN, mainly for rent or council tax arrears. Nearly 50 per cent of those have reduced their debt by an average of over £500. This Council regards this as a great achievement, given that many of these customers were in a cycle of building up debt year on year and were previously making no payment. Partnering with the MAN enables the Council to support its customers to access immediate advice, while helping to build a picture of who in the borough is in particular need and plan support for the future.