Hartlepool Foodbank is set to expand its services to help people deal with debt after winning a funding boost.
The Churches Together project, which has given out a whopping 60 tonnes of food to over 8,000 individuals since launching two years ago, secured the cash prize from Lloyds Bank’s Community Fund.
The foodbank, based in Church Street, came second in a regional online public vote to secure the funding.
The £2,000 will be used to launch a new Community Money Advice (CMA) debt advice service this year.
Al Wales, co-ordinator of Hartlepool Foodbank, said:
“We are so grateful to everyone who voted for us.
“Finishing second was a big achievement and shows the level of support there is for the work of the foodbank in the town.”
Foodbank bosses decided to focus on debt-related issues as it is one of the biggest issues faced by clients who are referred to them for emergency food parcels.
The new service will be headed up by foodbank trustee Lisa Lavender.
“We are delighted with this award because it means we will be able to offer completely free, face to face, quality money advice services which will contribute to the good already being done around the issue of debt in the town by agencies such as West View Resource Centre, Citizens Advice Bureau and Credit Union.”
According to the Trussell Trust charity, which runs the Hartlepool and other foodbanks, more than one in 10 UK families have taken out a pay day loan to make ends meet in the last year.
And almost a quarter have fallen into debt to be able to provide for the family.
Managers say they are currently well stocked with beans and pasta but are very low on tinned fruit, sugar and fruit juice and custard and tin tomatoes or pasta sauce.
You can leave them in permanent collection points at Tesco Extra, in Burn Road, or Morrisons, in Clarence Road.
Supporters can also take them to the foodbank on Tuesday or Friday mornings.
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 19 Jan 2015
A civil servant siphoned off nearly £2,000 from people’s benefits after struggling to meet the payments of his pay-day loan.
Anthony Osborne was paying £700 from his monthly salary to meet the “exorbitant” interest rates of his loan, Sunderland magistrates were told.
He turned to crime and took £1,932 in just five weeks after realising he could alter bank details on customers’ electronic records.
But he was caught after two claimants complained they had not received their benefits and an internal audit was carried out.
Osborne, 42, was arrested and pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position before Sunderland Magistrates’ Court in June.
At a sentencing hearing this week, Osborne blamed mounting debts and depression for the deception, described in court as being totally out of character for a man who had never been in trouble with the law.
Osborne, who gave his address in court as Wark Street, Chester-le-Street, carried out the fraud at Job Centre Plus in Sunderland, where he had worked for seven years.
Prosecutor John McGlone said over five weeks from December 6, the benefits processor helped himself to the cash, which was paid into two bank accounts he had access to.
Chris Wilson, defending, said Osborne was struggling to keep up with the demands from his loan.
“It was not frivolous spending,” he said, “but more a case of making ends meet.”
“Vulnerabilities in the system were identified by him and effectively it was to his benefit. The actions of Mr Osborne on this occasion were completely out of character.
“He has never come under the spotlight of the police or his employment.
“He is embarrassed and ashamed and wishes he could wind the clock back.
“Against the background of depression and the downward spiral he was in, he made an erroneous decision.”
Mr Wilson added that Osborne had moved out from the home he shared with his partner of five years, after they rowed over the court case and he was living at the tattoo removal business in Chester-le-Street which he had set up.
“His financial situation is now stable because of this. He has built up a customer base and it seems he will be successful, going forward,” he added.
Chairman Peter Devere ordered Osborne to serve a 12-month community order and to repay the stolen money back to the Department for Work and Pensions.
> Now, if the defendant had been from the other side of the counter – a claimant – we’d be getting headlines about Benefit Cheats and Taxpayer’s Money.
It’s still benefits fraud, and it’s still taxpayer’s money, but somehow it doesn’t seem to generate the same lurid headlines.
In fact its far worse, because he was in a position of responsibility and in receipt of a wage. And he stole from the worst off in society.
Which to my mind makes him the worst kind of benefits cheat.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 21 Aug 2014
A group of volunteers from Berwick, in partnership with residents’ forum Berwick Deserves Better, are working with Northumberland Credit Union to bring a regular paying-in point to the town.
Berwick & District Savings and Loans will offer access to secure savings accounts, including a children’s savings account which pays 3% APR credit interest.
The scheme can also offer low cost loans at just 1% interest per month (12.7% APR). These rates apply to everyone, regardless of circumstances, and there are no credit checks undertaken.
The savings and loans scheme is available to anyone who lives or works in Northumberland, and with the exception of a £2 joining fee there are no charges to save with the group. Members will be able to make deposits to their account by visiting the local paying-in point or by a regular Standing Order from a bank account.
Gary Morton, one of the volunteers organising the scheme, said: “This could be a great asset to our town – it encourages children to save regularly, it allows adults to save weekly from the smallest amount, and for people who need a loan it is a much cheaper and safer option than a pay-day loan.”
The team has a potential paying-in venue arranged, with training and materials provided by Northumberland Credit Union.
“All we need now are volunteers who are willing to help staff the paying-in point,” Gary said. “We’d really like to hear from anyone who is interested, no matter how much or how little time they can offer.”
The pay-in point will initially be open for two hours, one day a week, but the group is hoping to attract a pool of volunteers and expand this to another two hours with an evening session.
Northumberland Credit Union is a not-for-profit co-operative owned and run by local volunteers. For more go to www.ncul.co.uk
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 04 July 2014