Navigate Wis£rMoney Impact Report 2021-22

The twelve months from March 2021 to March 2022 has seen many challenges for our clients and the work we do with them. The ongoing concerns of the Covid pandemic, now coupled with the rising cost of living have altered the playing field beyond belief for many people we support. It is an irony that when the initial Covid lockdown took place, some of our clients said it was the first time anyone in the community had asked if they had food, or enough to eat, and offered food parcels. Some people felt better supported and less vulnerable than was their norm.

Moving forward, those people have become part of what feels like a growing mass of individuals who need more support as a result of external pressures; the difference is that there aren’t as many food parcels. Or indeed many parcels of any description. Many people are ashamed and embarrassed to admit they have problems with money and debt. We have experienced many challenges to the service we offer, and have had to work in inventive ways and through adverse circumstances to ensure we continue to give the best support we can.

“Wis£rmoney services are unique in providing debt advice, welfare benefits advice and income maximisation with
in-depth casework support, delivered through home visits across Devon and Somerset. AdviceUK is not aware of any other comparable debt advice service in England or Wales that delivers a home visiting service in rural areas”


Money and Debt Advice

1,145 individuals contacted us for help
1,444 cases opened to support clients
17,589 interventions completed on behalf of clients of clients achieved at least 1 successful outcome of clients achieved their financial goals
2,517 successful outcomes recorded
£543,931of debt written off
£1.9million of debt identified and managed
£662,832 of annual gains in income
£53,562 household support awards issued

Financial exclusion assessments are completed by the adviser while working directly with the client. This assessment identifies where a client faces exclusion, barriers and/or financial difficulty. In 2021-22 we identified:

of clients have no savings
have a household income of less than £16,190 per year
regularly use a foodbank
live with a persistent negative disposable income

The time we spend with each client depends on their needs and the complexity of the case. We work at our clients pace to reach a successful conclusion.
In 2021-22 over 40% of the clients we worked with to provide money, debt, welfare benefits and mental health support required 40 hours or more of intensive case work. The most time recorded supporting a client is 70 hours.

Income Maximisation

Benefits checks and income maximisation is no longer increasing income at a sufficient rate to cover additional living costs and we are seeing more and more clients having to live in a deficit budget.

There has been a huge increase in people asking to apply to local govt Household Funds administered by the council – for supermarket vouchers and money towards fuel and energy costs. People are finding it more and more difficult to afford to meet basic needs. These funds now have more specific criteria, which means advisers have to stretch the net wider to come up with solutions to support people in ongoing need.

Advisers are having to help more and more people appeal against refusals of PIP applications. Over the last 2 years this number has increased. This may be down to telephone assessments, instead of face to face meetings. The majority are overturned at appeal. However, the waiting time for the appeal is extremely stressful for people and has led to some nearly losing their homes, and not being able to afford to eat and meet disability costs during this period before their benefit is awarded.

This is particularly a problem when clients are waiting to hear from the DWP about a Limited Capacity for Work Related Activities assessment. Whilst a decision is pending, a client is still expected to undertake trips to a job centre – even though this can mean travelling lengthy (and costly) distances which are impossible due to their ill health or disability. This creates greater stress in the situation for our clients, and again an extension of the need for advocacy and support from our advisers. Sometimes, delays in decision making are actually the reason people get into debt in the first place.

Money & Debt Case Study – Steve’s Story

Steve was supported by Lindsay, Support worker, Adult Social Care Team

Steve: ‘I’ve lived here about 25 years. I lived with my parents. Now I live on my own. Since my mother died. Yes. Over 20 years.’

Lindsay: “His mum died twenty years ago. He’s struggled all that time without her. He’s been missed: he presents himself as so impeccably clean – polished shoes, smartly dressed.

Steve: ‘I was self-employed. A gardener. Not been well for a year or two. Not been able to work. Had a couple of days in hospital

Lindsay: “When he went into hospital he was extremely poorly. They treated him for self-neglect and malnutrition. Safeguarding was involved. Heating
and hot water wasn’t working. The hospital social services team had to put in a deep clean because the property wasn’t fit to return to. You could see
historically the support had been put in, then on the telephone he tells everyone he’s ok, and he disappears for six months. Then he comes back again in crisis. He had various illnesses: cataracts; cellulitis and swelling in his legs; he was getting his feet dressed weekly; he had ear infections and his face was swelling.”

Steve; ‘The Work Coach at the Job Centre phoned me every two weeks. Yes. He sent me on a computer course because I had no knowledge of computers. Talked about putting me on work experience, but since I’ve been signed off work by my doctor I don’t need to do that now.’

Lindsey: “A telephone conversation or meeting Steve somewhere, you wouldn’t see everything going on in the background. The self-neglect. Because of Steve’s mental capacity he couldn’t take on more than one thing at a time.”

Steve: ‘Doesn’t seem I was getting all I was entitled to. Was on Universal Credit only. Just the basic amount. I managed for a while. Used to being careful with money. Yes. Extra careful then.’

Lindsay: “We put in a referral to Wisermoney to explore what other benefits he would be entitled to so he could look after himself better. When we first met him, we had to put in emergency heating and blankets because he had nothing. He was spending about £8 a week for his weekly food bill.”

Steve: ‘It took most of last year to get my benefits sorted out.’

Lindsay: “Probably a good eighteen months from start to finish. They went to face to face assessment, then that got turned down. Then it had to go to a mandatory reconsideration and got thrown out just before it went to court. It was a really long process. Had Steve been left to do this himself, he wouldn’t have done.”

Steve: ‘Now I can use the heating as I need it. I feel the cold more as I get older. I can buy something in the supermarket at full price. ‘Home Instead’ are going to come. Spring cleaning. Feel very good about it. Yes. Looking forward to it. The PIP money will cover that very well. Need a bit of encouragement. Yes. A bit of help’

Lindsay: “He was in receipt of under £400 a calendar month; he’s now in receipt of £800.He’s signed an agreement with a local care agency who are managing his clutter and cleanliness in the home. Before, there was no way he could afford that.”

Steve; ‘I don’t worry about money now. Sometimes I did. Didn’t want to get into a debt situation. It’s reassuring. More comfortable. Feels very good sometimes. I would certainly call you again if I needed more advice and help. Yes.’

Lindsey: “It’s given him so much more confidence. At Christmas, he was able to get the local TV repairman out; for Steve to be able to ring someone up and call them in to sort a problem is big. REALLY BIG!”


Transport continues to be a challenge in rural areas. People comment how community transport (often the only public transport in some communities) has been impacted by Covid. There is also a lack of volunteer drivers. Some people still feel scared to travel communally. Diminution of service offer alongside this has increased isolation for people who are often vulnerable.

Example: An elderly lady we met in a West Devon village, who lives alone and wanted to go to a lunch club in her neighbouring village could get no transport of any sort to go to it.

Equally, for those with access to a car, the cost of fuel has impacted on clients’ abilities to travel to appointments, work etc. This pressure means people isolated by transport issues have seen an increase in difficulty. For those clients who need a face to face service from a provider like a post office or bank the cost impact is huge. Some clients have to rely on taxis as they have no other means of travel. More people are struggling with online services.

Digital, Online and Telephone Services

There is an impact from companies and services changing to remote contact only. 10.7% of Devon has slow broadband speeds; the national average is 1.3%. West Devon and Torridge are in the worst 10% of the entire country for availability and access to suitable broadband. Many people also have an inability to access digital information for a variety of reasons. Many of our clients are unable to monitor bills, debt etc. Unable to register for things if they have no email account – for example we met a client recently unable to register for the Warm Home Discount scheme as he does not have an email address.

New tenancies with housing associations are often now done digitally and are paperless. It can be difficult for people to know how to sign them digitally and easy for them to be lost in emails. Face to face contact with housing officers is more limited than before. This can delay communication and leave clients feeling more vulnerable and not in control. We support people with this and broker ways of working that are more appropriate to the client.

Some people are unable to deal with automated phone menus because of poor concentration due to health, or time issues – being put on hold, cut off and even fobbed off. Lost in transit. Difficulties communicating with creditors during Covid have left clients unconfident and confused, and often not trying to contact creditors again. This has led, in some cases, to bailiffs, County Court Judgements etc, which in turn impact on client health.

Hold times for HMRC/ Energy Companies and DWP are quite often at least 45 minutes long and the services being provided are often by people working from home. They cannot always speak to or resolve the issues at first contact. This means advisors frequently have to make multiple requests for information, each time with a lengthy wait. The knock-on effect of this for clients is a lengthening of their anxiety and the time that problems take to be resolved. This extends the contact time and items of work for advisors.

EXAMPLE: We have supported one client who at 96 years old was getting a taxi to her nearest bank branch as she is deaf and therefore could not get through security procedures over the phone. The taxi cost her £50. In order to work forward with this, our advisor set up a 4 way video call between herself, the client, bank, client’s son and social worker. We arranged for the son to have 3rd party access to client’s bank account so he could manage his mother’s banking needs. The son still stays in touch with the vulnerable customer lead from the bank if he comes across any issues. We had to take the initiative and broker this partnership approach.

have limited or no access to broadband
have little or no confidence using digital technology
have limited or no access to technology


Ongoing pressures of rising costs are impacting on the mental health of all clients. Almost every client is showing some degree of anxiety or depression regarding the current climate. Mental health is worsening as people can see no real end to the issues they are facing. They are becoming desperate and feel any help is short in coming. This makes our support even more necessary, and certainly means advisors have to be even more sensitive to client need, but also their own health because of the added intensity of the work they do.

  • 25% of our clients are housebound due to their health
  • 3% have dementia
  • 75% have a recorded mental health illness
  • 49% have a long term illness
  • 32% have a physical disability


Clients on default tariffs have seen cost increases of £693, rising from £1,277 to up to £1,971 per year. Prepayment customers have seen an increase of £708 from £1,309 to up to £2,017. And yet our clients have no corresponding rise in income, or ability to raise their income to meet these costs. The number of people having to choose between heating and eating is increasing. More people are making real choices between buying food or gas/electricity. Many choose not to turn on any appliances or heating unless absolutely necessary. Clients on pre-payment meters are getting electricity cut off when they do not have the funds to top up. Only short term help is available and this is a long term problem. Low income clients do not have the flexibility of spare funds to meet these rises.

We always ensure clients are on an appropriate tariff, but this now does little to cover the increasing gulf between income and outgoings. We also find that in our rural area there is a limited choice of energy source and what there is being often more expensive. Heating and running a property with poor insulation and infrastructure is costly, but housing stock in our area often falls into this category. Grants available to help with energy do not extend to oil; a number of our clients are obliged to use this but with no assistance available, and up-front costs extremely high.

Most of the phone calls received by our Triage Team are from clients worrying about heating their homes, having no heating oil, or choosing to stay in bed longer for warmth.

Example; A client whose gas and electric have gone up to £188.00 per month (ongoing usage of £131.00, plus £57.00 towards a bill for arrears). She is a single lady. She only receives £387.07 a month from Universal Credit, as she has £76.73 deducted for bedroom tax. 49% of her income is used to pay for energy. The energy supplier have said they cannot accept a lower payment for her arrears unless she has a pre-payment meter fitted; they will then accept £3.75 a week. This would reduce the total monthly expenditure to £147.25 which is still 38% of her monthly income on energy costs! Not to mention the increased tariff this client would pay with a prepayment meter. Our advisor continues to work with the case to find a way through.


Private rental costs are now rising at the fastest rate on record, and in the south west are higher than the national average. Housing stock is limited. Many clients are finding the Housing Allowance is not covering housing costs. Discretionary Housing Payments are harder to get as local councils are cutting budgets. Private landlords have significantly upped rents and people will not complain for fear of being asked to leave. This puts pressure on clients and advisors alike in trying to plot a viable way forward. Local council housing lists are available online, but some clients are unable to access them precisely because of this.

Working with Referral Partners

Wis£rmoney has continued to build effective partnerships with likeminded organisations and with a wide range of statutory and voluntary sector organisations. We strongly believe that partnership work adds value to the activities and communities we work with. It builds the financial resilience of individuals and reduces the stress and anxiety of many, enabling them to open the door to greater community engagement and improved wellbeing.

rated our service as ‘Very Important’ or ‘Important’ in comparison to other advice services
would make referrals to us in the future
would recommend us to other agencies
or clients

Community Events

Community wellbeing events are opportunities to celebrate what a community has to offer but more, to provide a point of contact for local people and services.
By inviting a range of organisations that are available locally, we aim to help people to be less isolated and better supported. We give an opportunity for people to find out what is available to them in their area. We also give organisations the chance to network and build new contacts. All of this helps to build more resilient communities with appropriate support. Each event we host is unique to its community.

We held 5 events during this period across: Winkleigh, Chagford, Lifton,Torrington, Black Torrington

“I’ve never been to an event like this, with so much information.”

“Very impressed! Just how much is available for various needs and interests.”

“It’s about being made aware of what’s available, which is important. And all in one place!”

Quotes from members of the public attending our community events.

“To have the opportunity to talk in person was so beneficial.”

“The event gave us invaluable time to network.”

“I’ve had lots of useful feedback, a referral and a volunteer application from the event!”

“It has increased my knowledge of other groups and services operation in West Devon.”

Quotes from members of the public attending our community events.

Navigate the Money Maze

During 2021-22 317 individuals completed our courses/workshops with 311 (98%) providing feedback. All participants of our budgeting and making financial decisions workshops reported gaining new financial skills and feeling more confident about tackling their finances in the future.

  • 97% felt they had a better understanding of the choices available to them to manage their money
  • 100% plan to use a personal budget at home to manage finances
  • 93% felt more confident about managing money
  • 100% felt they had a better understanding of the pros & cons of different types of financial decisions
  • 96% felt they gained a better understanding of their own decision making process

NtMM Case Study

Roy is a 39 year old single male living in assisted living accommodation after spending some time in a rehabilitation centre for addiction. Roy is currently unfit for work but his goals are to get his life back on track following addiction, gain employment and secure appropriate housing.
Roy has completed three Navigate the Money Maze workshops, myth busting benefits, making financial decisions and interview skills/confidence building. In the past Roy has spent time in youth institutions and prisons, has had relationship breakdowns with family and friends and has never felt able to support himself due to poor mental health and addiction. Roy has no savings, he does have a bank account and uses his money to make sure that he has enough to eat, but he finds that he is unable to maintain his other commitments and keep himself warm. Each course that Roy has attended has seen a visible improvement in his engagement and confidence to participate. During the first workshop – Making Financial Decisions; Roy was reserved and very quiet. During the session Roy commented on how he found it very interesting to look at what sort of decision maker he is. Following this course Roy stated that he:
Felt better equipped to find information to help him make financial decisions and had a better understanding of his own decision making process. Roy intends to start using the personal budget planner to help him manage his
finances at home.