This September, local debt advice service Junction 5 will be celebrating its 10th anniversary.
The free advice centre was first thought up by David Colebrooke, previous pastor of Life Church Hook (then Hook New Covenant Church). After meetings with several members of the church and Christ Church Chineham, Junction 5 was started up in September 2005.
A decade on, the team have taken a look back over their experiences and are considering their vision for the future of the service. Peter MacPherson, adviser for Junction 5, was involved in setting up the service and said: “The main objective is meeting people where they are.”
Advice is offered by fully trained volunteers who are vetted before becoming volunteers and who can give advice on bills, benefit entitlements, and negotiating or writing to creditors. Junction 5 is a busy organisation, with a small group of volunteers who currently support 47 clients, who collectively owe in excess of £650,000.
Peter said: “One of our very first clients was a mature pregnant lady who was losing her home and we were able to turn around a situation of despair to bring hope. That was very encouraging for years to come and one example of what Junction 5 does.” He said: “Junction 5 could be life changing and potentially life saving. It is difficult to articulate the emotions generated by seeing people helped.”
Junction 5 is affiliated with Community Money Advice, a national charity that aids community debt advice services through training, software and support. The advice centre is also regulated and licensed by the Financial Conduct Authority to ensure high standards of service.
A current client of the service, said: “My situation is ongoing, but I’m a lot more confident that I can deal with what is thrown at me where a couple of months ago I couldn’t, I have more confidence to deal with the situation.”
The Life Church Centre in Hook, where Junction 5 meets, is also a distribution branch for the Foodbank which can be a necessary aid for those struggling to make ends meet.
A past client of the advice centre, said: “When I first went I was really nervous, I was in a state, but they were so unjudgemental and put me at ease so quickly. They’re competent, friendly, all things good, I can’t see a reason anyone in that position would not contact them.
Things changed for me, I learnt to manage money better and not to be so scared of big companies. They educated me!”
The service aims to support clients to look towards options to reduce their debt or clear them where possible, as well as educating them on budgeting and strategies to manage their finances.
Andrew Franklin, an adviser for Junction 5 for two years, said: “It’s very rewarding to see a burden removed. Some people in debt have a fear of opening their letters or answering the door or the phone. They are in constant dread of someone chasing them. After the first meeting they realise that can all stop.”
It’s not all about the money however, sometimes the real issues run much deeper, particularly as those who have mental illnesses are three times more likely to be in debt (Office for National Statistics, 2002).
Andrew said: “A heart to help people, a heart for listening to people, is far more important than financial knowledge. A lot of people with debt are struggling with issues that contribute to their money problems, which have to be dealt with first so they can have a positive frame of mind.”
The team have seen over the years just how hard it is for someone to pick up the phone or come into their offices and strive to be as welcoming a place as possible. Lisa Levey, an adviser for five years, said: “We support anybody. No matter what their religion, age or gender is, we want to be welcoming to all those in the community. We are confidential and completely non-judgemental.”
Junction 5 has minimal running costs, with the figures for 2015 expected to be around £5,000. This goes towards paying their administrator as well as training costs and affiliation fees necessary to run the high quality service which relies on grants, donations and fundraising to continue.
In the future the team would like to look into expanding their appointment times to more days in the week, but primarily they are looking forward to continuing to meet the needs of those in the community. When asked what advice they would give to someone struggling with debt, a current client said: “Just do it, don’t be afraid to go to Junction 5 and discuss the options. At least talk about it.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with debt or you wish to become a volunteer or support the service in any way you can contact Junction 5 on 01256 769953 or firstname.lastname@example.org