Citizens Advice Essex, the consortium lead for the network of local Citizens Advice in Essex, are currently delivering "understanding debt" training to our team at Saffron Building Society.
The training is the first-ever of this sort provided by the consortium. Experienced debt advisers are delivering the training to a cohort of 60 colleagues from the business. As part of their activities supporting communities in branch areas, the society offered Citizens Advice Essex a grant to allow them to trial this new training in the region.
Local Citizens Advice offices form a network of independent charities that offer confidential and independent advice. Although centrally linked to the nationally funded head organisation, they operate as individual charities and rely upon local funding to provide their core services and run local initiatives and projects. Since March 2020 and the onset of the pandemic, the network in England and Wales has helped over 250,000 clients with debt problems.
Martin Lord, Director at Citizens Advice Essex, explains: "As the consortium lead for the network of local offices in Essex, we know how vital local funding is. We are always looking to develop funding for new initiatives in our area.
“The training with Saffron is an example of something that would require funding locally, and we are grateful to them for this. We've been able to resource the development of course packs and the materials necessary to get this off the ground. We can now roll this out to organisations across the Essex region – not just to building societies but anyone who needs to understand why people get into debt and what providers of debt advice, such as ourselves, can do to assist.
“The training is not to provide debt counselling services directly, but it will give a strong understanding of what debt can look like in various situations, understand the jargon, and give teams the tools to direct customers to the help they need. We will be here to help them."
All Saffron Building Society staff that are, or could be, customer-facing will be taking the training in a schedule of classes that have begun and will finalise in May. We believe this will put us one step ahead in understanding customer financial situations and provide better and clearer advice.
Claire Hunnable, Community Business Partner comments: "I am over the moon with the reaction from staff about the benefits of this training. As soon as Martin and I got talking, I was excited about the possibilities this provides, and we were delighted to use our community fund to help finance the set-up. It is so thrilling to know that this can now help other businesses in the communities around Essex. They too can upskill their staff and provide them with the knowledge they need to guide those in debt who need the help of brilliant organisations like Citizens Advice. Just another example of how it’s more than money at Saffron."