Blue Monday Debt Advice

The third Monday in January is known as Blue Monday due to a combination of post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights and the arrival of credit card bills

For many in Kent, 20th January, the third Monday in January, will be just another day living with the continual worry about the financial pressures they are under. On Blue Monday, Kent Community Foundation wants to highlight some of the organisations across Kent and Medway that those living with debt can turn to.

West Kent Debt Advice is a community-focused charity working to alleviate poverty caused by problem debt and lack of financial capability. Working in collaboration with the charity Crosslight Advice, West Kent Debt Advice services clients in Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks. Their clients often face debt problems triggered by no or under-employment, long-term physical or mental health problems, and/or complex social and family issues. The service is completely free, and they offer face-to-face advice, education, practical assistance and ongoing support to anyone who needs it, regardless of background or circumstance. Their aim is simple, to help people lift themselves out of their current difficulties and get back on their feet. Each year they hold over 500 appointments and support over 400 clients dealing with over £3m of debt. Since 2014, Kent Community Foundation has awarded West Kent Debt Advice grants totalling £18,500, to support the wok they do.

The Paddock Wood Community Advice Centre is an independent charity providing free, confidential and impartial advice and support to vulnerable people. Their advisers are volunteers and they are open for appointments and drop-ins five days per week. They support a population of around 11,000 individuals living in the Paddock Wood area. They help with a variety of issues including consumer matters, debt, employment, family, housing, relationship breakdown and welfare benefits. They use specialist welfare rights advisers and personally represent clients who are challenging Department of Work and Pensions decisions at the first-tier tribunal as well as specialist debt caseworkers and an Insolvency Service approved debt relief order intermediary. Since 2016 Kent Community Foundation has awarded grants totalling £27,500 to support their work across the county.

Bechange, provides a community hub where residents of the ex-mining village of Aylesham and the surrounding areas, in the district of Dover, can attend courses and support sessions. They aim to support disadvantaged adults, families and young people to make lasting changes in their lives, to reach more positive futures. They offer support for adults and young people to tackle issues with their money and their homes, develop money management skills and access secure housing as well as benefits and entitlements. They also offer advice about employment and relationships and work to build self-esteem and confidence for their clients. Since 2014, Kent Community Foundation has supported Bechange with grants totalling £45,600.

One of several community initiatives that Gillingham Baptist Church offers the people of Gillingham is debt advice. The debt advice service is delivered in partnership with Christians Against Poverty and offers advice for those struggling with unmanageable debt. They offer their clients advice, someone to talk to and a solution to financial debt and poverty and are supported by a team of debt counsellors. Over the last two years Kent Community Foundation has supported Gillingham Baptist Church with grants totalling £9,500 for their debt advice service and other initiatives including, a pre-school, cookery classes, play centres, a monthly Lunch Club and a weekly Boys and Girls Brigade.

Citizens Advice in North and West Kent is an independent charity affiliated to national Citizens Advice. They provide free, independent, confidential and impartial advice to anyone who needs it. They help people with a wide variety of issues and give them the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to find a way forward. Their advice is delivered across five offices in North West Kent serving a population of 450,000, with eight outreaches in rural, harder to reach communities and a 5 day per week telephone advice service. Annually they support 8,000 clients with over 25,000 different issues.  Their advice is delivered by trained volunteer Advisers, and they have specialists focusing on high-need and complex issues including debt, benefits, housing and immigration.  Over the last two years Kent Community Foundation has supported this charity’s work with grants totalling £22,500.

Natalie Smith, Director of Grants and Impact, Kent Community Foundation, said “In Kent nearly one in seven adults (224,000 people) are ‘over-indebted.’ The team at Kent Community Foundation recognises that debt is a real problem within the county and are dedicated to making a real impact by financially supporting many grassroots debt advice charities, and  allowing them to deliver help and advice to those who need it most.”

Natalie Smith continued, “If you know of  a small charity or community group doing sterling work supporting their local area with advice on debt and money management do ask them to contact Kent Community Foundation to find out if they might be eligible for a grant.”