Place Category: Finance & legal
- Website & Social
- Social Impact Declaration
- Social Impact Statements
We work across the South West providing loans to homeowners, landlords, empty property owners and more for a variety of purposes, in partnership with local councils.
Our mission is to improve the quality of people’s lives through the provision of high quality, accessible, responsible financial inclusion services which tackle issues of financial exclusion and isolation, building financial capability and resilience within the communities we serve.
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Social Impact Statements
The Social Enterprise Mark criteria includes a requirement that the applicant can demonstrate that social and/or environmental objectives are being achieved.
In support of this, new applicants and renewing Mark holders are asked to respond to a set of social impact questions, which are designed to help them think about the social impact they create, and to articulate this clearly and succinctly.
Updated August 2019
1) What social differences and changes have you aimed to create (or supported)?
The link between housing and health is well established, with poor housing conditions known to cause poor health, isolation and restriction of social mobility.
We work in partnership with 18 local councils across the South West to provide low cost loans for home repairs for homeowners, who are often unable to access mainstream finance, and would otherwise find themselves unable to fund repairs to their property.
We are therefore aiming to create social change on three levels:
- We want to make finance accessible to as many people as we reasonably can.
- We are passionate about using the opportunity to see the client in their home to improve more than just the condition of their home.
- Finally, we believe our core purpose is to improve housing conditions in the private and rented sector (via landlords).
2) What actions have you taken to address the above social aims?
Making finance accessible to as many people as we reasonably can:
We have several loan products that mean there are options to lend where others cannot and treat every case and every person as an individual. We have no upper age limit. We lend to people who are retired, who are on benefits, with a poor credit history or no credit history, and have a flat, fixed interest rate for all the clients we can lend to. We only lend the amount needed to support the works to the property and therefore never ‘upsell’. There are no early repayment charges and the only fee we charge is £20 to cover the cost of registering a Title Restriction at HM Land Registry to help protect the funds for the future.
Up to end of June 2019, we have lent £13,917,699 in the form of 2,412 loans, £7,837,072 of which has already been repaid and is available to relend. 1,232 loans have already been repaid in full. We have developed a flair for lending responsibly to those who cannot access mainstream lending, and to date have an enviably low bad debt rate of 0.019% of all capital lent.
Using the opportunity to improve more than just the condition of their home:
At each appointment, our advisers are on the lookout for potential signposting opportunities. We refer our clients on to Money Advice Services, the Fire Service, Credit Unions and more. We aim to use this ethos to help provide earlier interventions directly at the heart of communities.
We also obtained funding for some interest free oil loans to help those in fuel poverty spread the cost of bulk buying fuel.
Improve housing conditions in the private and rented sector (via landlords):
Over the years we have worked with our council partners to build our portfolio into being able to provide support for more than just urgent disrepair. We also support intervention work, disabled adaptations (where grant funding falls short), energy efficiency measures, park homes, landlords and empty homes.
We aim to use every networking opportunity, our attendance at events, our social media presence and our influence within the councils to raise awareness of the importance of ensuring the people in the communities we serve have access to ways to ensure the houses they occupy are homes fit to live in.
3) What has changed and what benefits have been realised as a result of your actions?
We work in partnership with 18 councils across the South West. We provide the loans and have access to the expertise of the Private Housing teams, such as Technical Officers or Case Officers within the council. Where clients require more support, we put them in touch with the council teams to aid with finding contractors or establishing the extent of the works required.
Grant funding is sporadic, limited and difficult to understand. If a loan is unaffordable, we may be able to signpost the client back to the council for a grant. If there are no grants available (due to the nature of the work, lack of grant funds in the area, or the client not meeting the eligibility criteria) and a loan is not affordable, we try and support the client via signposting so in the longer term a loan may become affordable.
We have recently began collecting more evidence in order to demonstrate our social impact in a meaningful way.
In Q1 of this year:
- We provided 44 loans, which improved housing conditions for 76 people
- 5 Empty Properties were brought back into use
- £318,432 was lent. 63% of these funds helped fund improved warmth and security measures and 5% disabled adaptations, leading to improved health and wellbeing
- 16 people were signposted to other services for support in other areas
- £290,983 capital was recycled. This is immediately available to relend.
As above, we have lent £13,917,699 in the form of 2,412 loans. We have previously attempted to link the loans to the savings to the NHS, however found the modelling problematic as it was based on several assumptions. We would therefore prefer to demonstrate anecdotally. It is understandable that if we improve damp in a property, it is likely that we would save the NHS money for relieving possible asthma symptoms, or if we assist with improving the housing conditions so that someone may move home sooner the NHS saves on bed spaces. Stating that we have saved the NHS at least hundreds of thousands of pounds may be true but sounds unbelievable.
4) How do you and other people know your aims are being achieved? Or how will you know?
We gather evidence during our loan appointments to confirm the number of occupants to demonstrate how many people we can assist. We record the type of work and use that to demonstrate the improvement in housing conditions. For example, replacing a boiler or windows is improving the warmth in the property.
Where we can, we gather case studies to publish and demonstrate our social impact. These prove to be tricky to obtain due to clients not wishing to highlight they required support. However, within our council areas and internally we can share anonymous case studies. They cannot be published as we do not wish to cause any of our clients discomfort, and we also take our duties to evidence case studies as genuine very seriously.
We are in the process of reviewing our post loan feedback. We were receiving a lot of process related feedback and compliments about our loans advisers but have started to see a few more comments about how funding the work to a home has made a difference.
The below questions are not mandatory, but Mark holders are encouraged to answer them where possible, to provide a fuller account of their social outcomes and the social value they create.
5) How many people have benefitted from your actions?
In Q1 of this year, we improved housing conditions for 76 people and signposted 16 people to other services for support.
All occupants of a property benefit from the work that we will have funded. This includes children as well as the owners and other people living there.
We work across the South West in 18 council areas:
- Bath and North East Somerset
- Bristol City Council
- Dorset Council
- East Devon District Council
- Exeter City Council
- Mendip District Council
- Mid Devon District Council
- North Devon Council
- North Somerset Council
- Sedgemoor District Council
- Somerset West and Taunton Council
- South Gloucestershire Council
- South Hams District Council
- South Somerset District Council
- Teignbridge District Council
- Torridge District Council
- West Devon Borough Council
- Wiltshire Council
We have been attempting to raise awareness in every corner of this area that we can. We typically find that parish magazines are a good way of reaching people as they are accessible and delivered directly.
6) What examples can you provide of a typical service user experience, that helps illustrate the benefits they have experienced as a result of your actions?
Colin lives in a village on the outskirts of Bath and has lived in his semi-detached house since he was four years old. When he lost his parents some time ago, he inherited the house and lived there alone, but Colin didn’t want to move as the house held many fond memories and he also had some great friends nearby as well as good local facilities in the area. Colin was also able to live independently without a mortgage to pay. However, as time went on and the house started to become cold and damp and the bills were going up, Colin struggled, and his home started to become a bit of a problem. However, relying on a state pension and limited income and at aged 67, a loan to make some home improvements was not an option from a mainstream lender. Colin discovered Wessex Resolutions, a not-for-profit organisation in the South West who use funds from local councils to provide homeowners with loans to fund a range of improvements to homes.
After the initial enquiry, Colin was visited by a Wessex Resolutions personal Adviser, Andy, who explained the service to Colin and talked him through a range of loan products available. Upon completing a financial assessment and credit score and despite being 67 years old at the time, Colin was eligible for a loan and was offered an ‘interest roll-up’ loan. Because Colin had limited income, but equity in his house, loan payments did not need to be made on a regular basis that can often be the case with loans. With an interest roll-up loan, at such a time that Colin’s house sold, for whatever reason, the loan amount plus the interest is fixed (4.2% APR), would be repaid in full.
Wessex Resolutions used funds from Bath and North East Somerset Council, the local authority, to lend Colin £8,350 to pay for new double-glazed windows and external doors throughout his house, which was approved within four weeks. The work also included building some steps at the rear of his house so he could access the back garden safely. Somerset Care & Repair, who work together with Wessex Resolutions, carried out all of the work to Colin’s delight. From the initial enquiry to the completion of all the work, took less than three months.
“I couldn’t believe that I got so much help with my home when I needed it and didn’t really know what to do. I’m very happy living here and it’s so much safer and warmer and I am so grateful to Andy at Wessex Resolutions and his colleagues at We Care Home Improvements for making such a difference to my life.”
Colin originally secured his loan in 2012, and although he didn’t need to make monthly payments as a result of his circumstances and as the loan would be repaid upon the sale of his house, Colin has diligently saved money every year and has recently paid off his loan in full.
Andy Meldrum, a loans adviser for Wessex Resolutions said: “The help and support available for other homeowners like Colin is out there and by sharing Colin’s wonderful story, I hope that others who may be struggling in their homes will get in touch with us at Wessex Resolutions as we may be able to help.
“Each year since I approved his loan, Colin contacts me to say he’s saved up some money and he makes a payment to clear some of his total loan amount. In February 2019, seven years after taking the loan, I couldn’t believe it when Colin rang me to say he wanted to make his final payment; he’s the first person I’ve had in ten years of working at Wessex Resolutions where this has happened! I’m delighted for Colin and his new and improved home and I wish him many more happy years there to come.”
Keen to help others, Colin said:
“I really am pleased to be able to carry on living in my lovely home where I grew up and now having paid off all of my loan; it feels great! I’m sure there’s lots of others out there like me, so I’d definitely recommend getting in touch with Wessex Resolutions to get some help, you’ve got nothing to lose.”
7) What additional social benefits have you been able to deliver within your core services that distinguish you from other “for shareholder profit” providers?
We have recently built a partnership with the Devon and Somerset Fire Service in order to cross refer. Our advisers take out leaflets and smoke alarm guides in their vans in order to hand them to residents. If they spot a need, they will signpost them to the Fire Service for a free check. As mentioned earlier, we have made signposting a key part of our service in addition to the service we are funded for: the provision of loans for home improvements.
We have a useful information page on our website which we regularly update with useful pages for obtaining advice, support and grants.
We signpost clients who call into the office who do not want a loan to the services that we are aware of, such as energy agencies who can provide grant support.
We have introduced an interest freeze for 18 months for loans where the borrower sadly passes away to allow relatives/executors to go through the process of probate and sell the home. If one homeowner passes away, we automatically offer them support with their repayments.
There are no financial penalties for settling the loan early. This helps some clients feel better about having a loan as it means they can clear it quicker.
We also freeze the interest and payments as soon as we become aware that someone is experiencing financial difficulties such as having their benefits stopped or altered unexpectedly, or if they lose their job.
We have made a commitment to not use bailiffs or repossess someone in order to recover a loan (We can wait for the funds to be repaid in several years via a natural sale of the property). We deal with arrears internally and do not sell debt onto third parties.
8) What other social benefits have you contributed that go beyond your core delivery activities (ones that are completely unrelated to your main services)?
We have donated £100,000 of our own reserves this financial year in order to support the set up of a charity called Navigate for the provision of free money and debt advice services. This was part of our core service up until April this year, but we needed to split the business for both areas to receive the full attention they deserve. We give them 20 hours of free meeting space a month. There are 8 employees who work in partnership with Encompass South West and Mind in order to provide money and debt advice to those who cannot access Citizens Advice Bureau due to complex needs or rurality. During 2018/19 77 referrals were made and processed, delivering outcomes such as income maximisation, debt reduction and money management skills.
We also have a volunteering policy to allow team members to spend a day a year volunteering at an organisation of their choice. However most team members use their personal time to volunteer so we are considering projects with more of an impact, such as volunteering our time together as an organisation in order to refresh a community space for example.
9) What social and environmental benefits have you created from internal operational policies and actions?
We collect crisp packets, bread bags, bottle tops, aerosols and beauty packaging in order to recycle it via the Terracycle scheme, the Lush bottle top scheme and a team member who can put them out for recycling in their area. We absorb the costs of posting and driving to drop these off to collection points and encourage team members to bring in materials from home that cannot be recycled. We tend to use recycled envelopes from home deliveries to post these!
We are aiming to go as paperless as we can (without being restrictive in our accessibility) within the next year. This will involve an investment in suitable technologies which we are currently researching and are due to purchase shortly.
Employees benefit from an 8% pension scheme (which means they do not need to contribute under auto enrolment but many of us do invest extra!) flexible working (above and beyond allowing a different working pattern, such as altering work patterns ad hoc to fit with childcare amendments) and generous annual leave. We close for Christmas every year so that team members do not need to worry about a rota etc in order to spend time with their loved ones. This does not impact our service as we mitigate the impact on clients.
We are also introducing two new paid for breaks in the morning and afternoon so everyone can share the time together.