Mike Barton is a Facilitator for Your Own Place, the social enterprise which has started delivering Money Skills Workshops at food hubs across Norwich. Here, Mike explains how the aim is to help people take control of their finances, from budgeting to benefits
When Mike Barton, a Facilitator for Your Own Place social enterprise, worked out how much he was spending on coffee a year, it came as a surprise. It was £650 a year. The coffee lover says: ‘The first time I wrote it down it was a bit of a revelation,’ he says, ‘that’s a lot of money I could use elsewhere if I wanted to.’ And that is exactly what he did. ‘To be honest, I wanted to get the kids a paddling pool which was about £100 so I cut back on my coffee.’
It easier as time went on. ‘I tended to appreciate coffee more, as it was a proper treat. I bought the paddling pool and went back to spending money on my coffee.’
Your Own Place has been going for 10 years, and is an award-winning social enterprise delivering money, housing, tenancy and cost-of-living workshops to prevent homelessness. Recently, the team started delivering two-hour Money Skills Workshops, working in partnership with The Trussell Trust food banks in Norwich and The Feed’s Social Supermarket on Hall Road.
The first workshop is all about budgeting. Working out how much we’re spending on that one daily ‘treat’ every week, month and year is a good first step, as Mike adds: ‘Everyone has got their thing, whether it’s a packet of Haribo’s or a can of Coke. Tobacco is one that comes up a lot.’
He explains how the new Money Skills Workshops came about. ‘We spent September to December visiting the food banks and the Social Supermarket every week, meeting people and talking to people. We listened to what challenges they are facing. For lots of people, there isn’t enough money. Lots of people are struggling and lots of people are cutting back. With the Money Skills Workshops, we are covering three topics to start with: budgeting, debt and benefits.’
The feedback from the first round of workshops was positive: ‘fun’ was one word used to describe them. ‘We are trying to make it as less like school as possible,’ says Mike.
Tomorrow (Tuesday, March 14), Bianca Tye from Your Own Place will be at the Social Supermarket, leading a workshop on budgeting, talking through the common bills we all pay and what they cost, as well as sharing approaches to budgeting. People attending the workshop will be able to hear what works for others and pick up tips on how to budget monthly.
Mike says: ‘With the debt workshop we talk about people’s experiences of debt – why do people borrow money? We came up with all the reasons and put all the answers into two types: which is good debt, and which is bad debt? Whether debt is good or bad depends on two things: can you repay it and does it add value to your life?’
At the workshop the Your Own Place facilitators will be tackling these questions as well as looking at places people can go to for help and support.
If people are in debt, what can they do about it? Mike says: ‘Ask for help early – we work with lots of people who have built up some debt. We get people together and have the conversation.’ Although he makes the point: ‘Everyone has got to walk away and do it for themselves.’
The third and final Money Skills Workshop is all about Benefits and Cost of Living Support. ‘That’s a really interesting one,’ says Mike, ‘we go through all the benefits that are out there. Benefits are an incredibly complicated area.’ He admits that the names of all the benefits can be ‘baffling’ to people.
The team will discuss some of the benefits that exist, where people can go to check that they are getting everything they are entitled to, and what other cost of living support is available.
All the workshops are charity funded and free. Mike says: ‘They are for people who have used food banks in the past or for the first time.’ And they will be continuing for the foreseeable future. Mike says: ‘We are going to go on until the end of September and we are hoping to continue after that.’
Andrea Auburn, Programme Development Manager at The Feed, adds: ‘We’re really pleased to be working with the team on these workshops, from the start of the project to delivery. Having sat in on the first workshop, it was great to see how it gave people confidence to manage their money.
‘The workshops are part of our support programme at the Community Café, where our members can get advice and support on a range of issues as well as connecting over food.’
The next Money Skills Workshop by Your Own Place takes place at the The Feed’s Social Supermarket, Hall Road, Norwich, tomorrow (March 14), from 12.30-2.30pm. This will be a small group session, sharing tips on bills and budgeting. The session is free and open to all Social Supermarket members – booking advised. Visit Your Own Place.