Support & well-being
Financial wellbeing is a state of being where individuals can fully meet their current and ongoing financial commitments feeling secure and able to make choices suitable for their lifestyle. People who achieve financial wellbeing are more likely to be less stressed about money. The University offers all employees seeking ways to find financial wellbeing signposting support to assist with how to establish a better sense of feeling secure and in control of their finances, both now and in the future.
In today’s uncertain times, with the cost of living rising exponentially, the University are aware that financial wellbeing may seem like an unattainable goal. It is therefore more important, now more than ever, to access all the resources available to help build financial resilience.
It can be embarrassing, as well as very stressful to think about talking to someone about money troubles. However, it is important to note that individuals seek help at the first sign of difficulty to prevent the issue(s) spiralling out of control. This microsite will detail the support that is available to employees both within and outside of the University and is broken down into sections to aid navigation.
Please note that the University are unable to offer financial advice to employees. Anyone who gives specific, personalised financial advice in the UK is required by law (by the financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority) to registered with them and able to conduct a detailed fact-finding process with individuals before being able to give such advice.
Speak to your manager
If you are experiencing financial difficulties, it is important to speak to your manager. The University have a duty of care towards all colleagues and we are aware of the detrimental impact such pressures may have on mental health and wellbeing (see later).
The most common answer given by those experiencing financial hardship is that they need more money. Should you work part-time and be able to pick up extra hours, it could be worthwhile speaking to you manager to see if there is anything available. Please remember however that additional hours (often referred to as overtime) are not mandatory/contractual, nor are they guaranteed, so it is important not to rely on them as a source of additional income on an ongoing basis even if they are available. It is also important to balance additional hours with your physical and mental wellbeing, as well as both the university and individual complying with the law around working hours. If sustained over long a period, increased working hours could prove detrimental to physical and mental health. Employees must also not exceed an average of 48 hours over a 17-week period under the law.
Mental health and wellbeing
For employees to effectively deal with their finances, especially where they are having trouble, it is important their mental health and wellbeing is in the best place it can be to deal with these complexities. The University offer employees support through the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which is sources through an external organisation called Health Assured. The EAP service provides a complete support network that offers expert advice and compassionate guidance 24/7, covering a wide range of issues, including counselling, as well as legal and financial advice. It is completely independent of the University and therefore confidential. If you wish to access this service, full details can be found here.
To access the service directly, which also includes access to the My Healthy Advantage App (downloadable from Goole Play or the App Store, for which you will need to input the code MHA119084 to activate), please visit http://www.healthassuredeap.co.uk/ using “Loughborough” as the username and “University” as the password.
In addition to the EAP, the University also offer a wealth of advice and guidance around wellbeing on through the wellbeing portal. Please visit https://www.lboro.ac.uk/internal/staff-wellbeing/ for details.
As well as your salary, the University offer a benefits package designed to offer support that fits within the different stages and circumstances of an individuals life and career. These include the ‘Love Loughborough’ discount card, free eye tests (dependant on role), discounted computer software, discounted insurance and holiday club subsidies. For further information, please visit https://www.lboro.ac.uk/services/hr/jobs/employee-benefits/.
Department for Work and Pensions benefits
Depending on earnings and personal/family circumstances, employees may be able to claim Universal Credit. The way benefits are paid have changed in recent years to encourage people back to work and Universal Credit doesn’t simply stop because someone has started work, as it is designed to support individuals on low incomes. For example:
- You have a child and get money for housing costs in your Universal Credit payment. You’re working and earn £500 during your assessment period.
- Your work allowance is £344. This means you can earn £344 without any money being deducted.
- For every £1 of the remaining £156 you get, 55p is taken from your Universal Credit payment. So, £156 x £0.55 = £85.80.
- This means you earn £500 and £85.80 is deducted from your Universal Credit.
Source: HM Government (https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit/how-your-earnings-affect-your-payments).
In order to check eligibility, please visit https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit/eligibility. This site contains a handy benefit calculator to check what individuals may receive. Please see https://www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators for details.
Cost of living payments
The Government recently announced a package of measures to help low-income households tackle the dramatic cost of living increases. It is important that employees receive what they are entitled to. For more details of the scheme and how payments will be made, please refer to https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-support-for-the-cost-of-living-factsheet/government-support-for-the-cost-of-living-factsheet.
Help with utility bills
One of the largest rises in the cost of living has been to our utility bills. This has increased the number of people experiencing fuel poverty. A household is considered to be in fuel poverty when it is required to spend more than 10% of its income on fuel/energy bills. However, there is help available.
The first port of call are the utility companies themselves. Should individuals be experiencing payment difficulties, they should first of all contact them and explain this. The likely outcome will be a manageable payment plan to help clear arrears, as well as continue to pay for your service. Providing you can agree this and, more importantly, stick to the payment plan, your utility supplier will be happy.
However, should employees already be in arrears, there are specific grants available, dependent on qualifying conditions around income and debt levels.
For those living in the East Midlands, the Severn Trent Trust Fund is a scheme designed to help people with Severn Trent Water arrears that they are unable to pay back. It can help with:
- A grant to meet water and/or sewerage arrears owed to Severn Trent Water if individuals are in hardship and unable to pay.
- Water or sewerage charges which are collected by other companies or organisations on behalf of Severn Trent Water.
- In certain cases, it can also consider giving some help to meet other essential bills, household needs or priority debts.
Please visit http://www.sttf.org.uk/ for more details.
In addition to this, Severn Trent also offer something called the Big Difference Scheme. This can help customers who are in receipt of a low income and struggling to pay their water charges. If eligible for the scheme, individuals could receive up to 90% off the average Severn Trent water bill. For further details, please visit https://bigdiff.co.uk/login.php.
For those who live in another part of the country, please contact the water company specific to the area, or google “Help with water arrears/payments”.
For gas and electric arrears, there is the British Gas Energy Trust. It is an independent charitable Trust funded solely by donations from British Gas. The Trust contributes to supporting those in financial difficulty, with a focus on energy debt and individuals do not need to be a customer of British Gas to apply for help. Dependent on circumstances, qualifying applicants can apply for grants to clear domestic gas and electricity debts owed to British Gas and most other energy suppliers. In addition, the Trust provides local budgets to funded organisations to provide help including:
- Emergency fuel top-ups for prepayment meters.
- Home energy efficiency assessments.
- Boiler repairs / replacements.
- Energy efficiency measures.
- Emergency heating sources.
- Bankruptcy / DRO costs
The above bullet points will be provided by the Funded organisations as part of an overall package of support and is for emergency cases only. For further details, please visit https://britishgasenergytrust.org.uk/.
Trade Union member benefits
For colleagues who are members of the recognised campus unions, you may not be aware that they offer a host of resources to help those experiencing financial difficulty.
- For UCU members, please call Education Support on 08000 562 561 (helpline) or 07909 341229 (text).
- For Unison members, please visit https://benefits.unison.org.uk/home/money/.
- For Unite members, please e-mail email@example.com.
Should employees be a member of another union that is not part of the University’s Partnership and Recognition Agreement, please contact them directly to see what advice, guidance, resources and assistance they may be able to offer.
Money and Pension Service
The Money and Pensions Service is an organisation sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions with a legal objective to develop and co-ordinate a national strategy to improve people’s financial capabilities. The service provides impartial, free money and pensions guidance directly to consumers online and by telephone. In summary, their services include the following:
- Tools to help navigate benefits.
- Everyday money matter with tools and “couch to financial” fitness facility. This is a ten-week plan that helps individuals take control of their finances with buddies to help them along the way and practical tools that can be used.
- Assistance with money troubles. This includes managing money in uncertain times with free and confidential debt advice from informed people.
- Breathing Space. This is a government scheme which is designed to give time to receive debt advice and find a solution to sort out debt problems. There are two kinds of breathing space:
- Standard Breathing Space, which individuals apply for through debt advice and which lasts for up to 60 days, with a review between days 25 and 35. During this time, creditors will have to stop collection and enforcement of your debts. Creditors will also have to freeze interest and charges on any eligible debts.
- Mental health crisis breathing space can provide extra protection for people who are receiving mental health crisis treatment and can only be applied for with an Approved Mental Health Practitioner (AMHP). It lasts for the duration of your treatment, plus 30 days thereafter.
- Pension and retirement issues.
- Access to free debt and pension advice.
These resources can be accessed by visiting https://maps.org.uk/ and use the drop-down menu entitled “Our Work” at the top of the page for details of the support available.
Broadband for low-income families
One service that we have all come to rely on and is becoming an increasing necessity for “life admin” is the internet. This can be costly and put additional pressure on household finances. However, there are low-cost packages available for low-income families. Please visit https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/utilities/broadband-and-tv/broadband-for-low-income-families/ or https://www.uswitch.com/broadband/guides/broadband-deals-for-low-income-families/ for more details.
Foodbanks and help with the rising cost of food
Basic provisions are another commodity that have drastically increased in price in recent times. This has in turn driven many families to turn to foodbanks for help. For details of help available in the Loughborough area, please visit https://loughborougharea.foodbank.org.uk/?_ga=2.139616822.424316503.1655110080-735266903.1655110080, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07495 561408.
As an education provider and an educational establishment, employees can apply for free membership to the Company Shop Group. They are the UK’s leading redistributor of surplus food and household products at hugely discounted prices. For further details, please visit https://www.companyshopgroup.co.uk/.
Other useful resources
Citizens Advice (https://www.ukcitizensdebtadvice.org/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI_4r7mpSq-AIVDO3tCh3fawEcEAAYAiAAEgJpUPD_BwE) can help people manage debt to enable them to achieve financial independence.
Turn2Us (https://www.turn2us.org.uk/Your-Situation) helps people in financial need gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and other financial help – online, by phone and face to face through our partner organisations.
The Bounce Back checklist through the British Gas Energy Trust (https://britishgasenergytrust.org.uk/bounce-back-checklist/). This details the main benefits and schemes to help individuals get support and maximise their income, whether they are working or not.
Education Support (https://www.educationsupport.org.uk/) supports individuals and help schools, colleges and universities to improve the mental health and wellbeing of their staff.
StepChange Debt Charity (www.stepchange.org.uk or call 0800 138 1111) is the UK's leading debt charity. Get free, confidential advice and practical solutions to help deal with debts.
National Debtline (www.nationaldebtline.org or call 0808 808 4000) will talk individuals through options and give clear advice on how to take back control.
PayPlan (www.payplan.com or call 0800 280 2816) offer a supportive, non-judgemental team of advisers help thousands of people beat their debts every year and treat all calls with the strictest confidence.
Financial Wellness Group (www.financialwellnessgroup.co.uk or call 0161 518 8285) provides free advice and solutions for people struggling with money, debt and budgeting. They have 27+ years’ experience supporting people to find a route to become debt free.
Debt Advice Foundation (www.debtadvicefoundation.org or call 0800 622 61 51) is a national debt advice and education charity offering free, confidential support and advice to anyone worried about debt.