"Make no mistake, Calderdale needs Noah’s Ark" - Future of Halifax money advice service under threat due to lack of funding

A Halifax counselling and money advice service has warned that securing grant funding is not be enough to save it from the threat of redundancies.

By Tom Scargill
Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 10:27 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 10:29 am

The Tudor Trust , an independent grant making charity in London, has awarded Noah's Ark Centre a grant of £100,000, spread over three years, towards the core costs of running the service.

But concerns remain over the future of the service, with the main funding for their money advice project due to run out in August.

Andrew Sykes, from the centre, said: "This is the second grant they’ve awarded us - three years ago they gave us £90,000 and less than one in 10 applications are successful, even lower for applications for continuation funding.

Sign up to our daily Halifax Courier Today newsletter

Andrew Sykes

"So this is a real feather in the cap for us and is independent recognition of the value of our work.

“They really liked the combination of counselling and debt advice, seeing how this approach really helps people to change things in their lives.

"But whilst the money from Tudor Trust is great news, the wider issues we’re having with funding are not so great, particularly in regards to our money/debt advice project.

"As things stand, we will shortly have no choice but to begin redundancy consultation with our two key debt advice workers, as funding for their salaries ends in the summer and we haven’t been able to secure additional funding."

Andrew says the centre's debt advice project is one of the most successful in the country and in the last five years, they have helped over 1,200 people in Calderdale to become debt free.

"Debt is destructive; it pushes people to the brink of suicide, ruins relationships and has a huge negative impact on mental health," Andrew said.

"I’ve been running our debt advice project for 12 years and the last four months have been crazy: I’ve never known it like this.

"Referrals are 50 per cent higher than 2021, a record year for us, and our Debt Relief Order (DRO) activity is 44 per cent higher than 2021, again a record year. A DRO is a formal insolvency arrangement, like bankruptcy, that allows clients to start again financially. After 12 months their debts are wiped: it’s life changing for individuals and families.

"The Insolvency Service recently published the personal insolvency statistics for 2021. Calderdale is the number one local authority in the UK for DRO’s per capita. Of the 324 DRO’s arranged we completed 282 of them: in fact, we arranged 1.4 per cent of all the DRO’s in the UK in 2021. These are really significant statistics and when you look beyond the numbers, at the lives changed and improved, they become even more important.

"Sixty per cent of our referrals come from the council, the NHS or from organisations directly funded by them and yet we receive no financial support for our debt advice project from either the council or NHS.

"Throughout the pandemic we never once closed our doors. Right from the start in March 2020 we supported our community tirelessly. Staff worked seven days a week, didn’t take annual leave and we maintained and even expanded of our service delivery.

"We adapted and made sure that people got what they needed from us. So it’s a real slap in the face for my staff, who worked so damned hard, to be told they face redundancy.

"What can’t be overlooked though is that 2022 will be one of the most challenging years our community has faced in a generation. Our residents are already feeling the pain of the rising cost of living but with inflation set to hit 10 per cent and another energy price rise in October, things will get worse.

"Face to face advice projects like ours, with all of our add on projects like budgeting courses, mental health support, employment support and our food bank, will be needed more than ever.

"If I lose my staff, they’ll be fine, they’ll no doubt walk into other jobs without a problem but when our service is gone, it will stay gone. The loss of our project will leave a huge hole, particularly in North Halifax which already has some of the most deprived areas of the United Kingdom and it will be the community that suffers most.

"I’ve been engaged with senior leadership at both Calderdale Council and Calderdale CCG since November last year: I saw this issue coming but so far to no avail. I recently contacted all of the North Halifax local councillors to ask for their support, whilst the response from all of them was extremely positive, thus far it’s been to no avail.

"Noah’s Ark is a community organisation that works hard to serve its community. We’re working hard to ensure that we’re still here, still able to do what we do but we need support. Make no mistake, Calderdale needs Noah’s Ark, but people just don’t realise how much yet."