Joint project to help the homeless with bank accounts and budgeting
A charity has joined forces with a building society to offer bank accounts and budgeting advice to homeless people in East Sussex.
Nationwide branches in Bexhill, Eastbourne and Hailsham will be working with Warming Up The Homeless on an initiative to help homeless people gain financial independence while protecting them from financial exploitation.
The new partnership came about following a conversation between WUTH CEO Trudy Hampton and Ashan Jeeawon, senior manager at the three branches.
Ashan, who is also a Rother District Councillor, said: “I was chatting with Trudy about what things they found difficult and she said they struggled with financial services for the homeless community. I had a think about what I could do at Nationwide to support that.”
People who are registered homeless can often struggle to get bank accounts, as they may not have ID, such as a driving licence or passport.
Although accounts can still be issued to people in challenging circumstances, this daunting process has been made easier as WUTH can now verify a homeless person’s identity, without the need for traditional ID.
Trudy Hampton said: “We can verify if they are rough sleepers or can verify addresses. We can verify they are who they say they are. We are the only referral agency.
“It’s a huge thing for us and a huge thing for Nationwide.”
Ashan said: “What I offered is I will be the liaison point for ID. If Trudy has someone in her service who requires a bank account, she will liaise with me for ID.”
Ashan also plans to hold free sessions to offer homeless people advice on budgeting and how to use their bank account.
He said: “What you can find with the homeless community is they may have never had a bank account, had a card, or used a cash machine.
“You could issue someone with a card and they have no idea how to work the cash machine. There’s so many misconceptions. They are really vulnerable in terms of finding out how it all works.”
He added: “The account itself has no fees and charges, so they cannot get into difficulties. We do not want to open another vulnerability by getting people into debt.”
The new project will also help to protect the homeless from potential financial exploitation.
Ashan said: “Benefits have to be put into an account and if there is not scope to do that, that’s unfortunately where financial exploitation can come in as it has to go into someone else’s bank account.”
Although the new scheme focuses on the Bexhill, Eastbourne and Hailsham Nationwide branches, Ashan said if a homeless person anywhere else in East Sussex needs help with a bank account, they can still come forward for help.
He added: “Regardless of where they are, as long as they go through Trudy, then I will pick it up directly from them or Trudy to look at the next steps.”
Anyone who needs help should contact their local branch of Nationwide or Trudy Hampton at Warming Up The Homeless.