Over £800k Funding Secured for New Money Matters Highland Service

Thursday 19 February 2015

A group of Highland housing providers led by Albyn Housing Society has successfully secured £858,000 to launch a financial and energy advice project set to help over 2500 Highlanders over the next five years.

The project, Money Matters Highland, aims to help tenants in the social rented sector tackle spiralling fuel costs and make a smooth transition to the Universal Credit benefit system through one-to-one specialist advice.

It will achieve this by contracting the required expertise from existing local advice providers who will work in collaboration with the project partners’ staff to ensure those in most need of assistance receive it. This arrangement in turn will support existing local advice services by funding the equivalent of six full time jobs.

The project’s partners are Albyn Housing Society, Pentland Housing Association, Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association, Lochaber Housing Association and Cairn Housing Association.

Calum Macaulay, our Chief Executive, commented: “The Highlands and Islands have the highest energy costs in the UK and with the additional burden of lower core income levels and higher transport costs, our tenants are facing increasing financial burdens.

“This project will complement existing advice and information services and ensure our tenants across the Highlands, even those in our most remote and rural communities, have access to support. This funding will enable us to deliver this important project for at least five years, allowing us to help as many people as possible.”

Jason MacGilp, Chief Executive at partner organisation, Cairn Housing Association, added: “With Universal Credit set to be rolled out to the whole of the Highlands from this month, it’s very important we have these additional resources in place to provide our tenants with the advice and information they will need to maximise their incomes. For some this means rationing daily essentials such as heating and food, things which so many of us take for granted.

“This new funding is greatly welcomed as it will also help us in our efforts to make sure that our tenants enjoy affordable warmth in their homes and help us to continue to fight the scourge of fuel poverty across the Highlands.”

As part of the project, the partnership also plans to hold Count Your Cash Days in locations throughout the Highlands.

Speaking of these events, Gail Ward, Housing Policy Officer at the Highland Council, said: “As part of our Big Lottery Fund proposal and the Money Matters Highland project we aim to host a series of special advice sessions called Count Your Cash Days.

“These events will bring the Money Matters Highland service, the Council’s Money Advice Service and other local financial agencies such as credit unions directly to communities across the region. They will help tenants address their money concerns, get on top of their finances and prevent debt and hardship for the future.”

Universal Credit went live at Inverness Jobcentre in November 2013, and official Department for Work and Pensions statistics show that 1,060 Universal Credit claims were made at Inverness Jobcentre in the period between launch and 6 November 2014. It is now live for single claimants across all Highland Jobcentres.

For more information about the Money Matters Highland Project, contact Lucy Fraser, communities coordinator at Albyn Housing Society on 01349 855 972 or lucy.fraser@albynhousing.org.uk.