The Co-operative Bank has today (2, November 2016) linked up with Citizens Advice Manchester (CAM) to launch a pioneering referral programme for customers who find themselves in financial difficulty.
The Bank has provided funding for a dedicated resource at Citizens Advice Manchester, who will work with particularly vulnerable customers. Uniquely, this resource will support customers in financial difficulty, looking at their overall financial circumstances, and not just the accounts they hold with the Bank. This is the first time this type of activity has been done this way in the UK.
Heather Lauder, Distribution Director, at The Co-operative Bank, said: “The Bank is delighted to be working with Citizens Advice Manchester in launching this new initiative to help support customers in financial difficulty. As the only high street bank with a customer-led Ethical Policy, it is important that we deal with customers who are experiencing financial problems in a sensitive and understanding way.
“We recognise that financial difficulty can come in many forms, and each customer’s circumstances are unique to them. By referring customers to CAM for help and advice, it allows customers to get independent help which looks at the customers overall positon and allows them to tackle their debt in a more holistic way.”
Andy Brown, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Manchester, said: “We are really excited to launch this new approach of tackling financial difficulties experienced by customers of The Co-operative Bank. Working in close partnership with the Bank we see this as an opportunity to reach more people in debt, prevent their problems from escalating and supporting them and their families to a position of financial security.”
Some examples of how the Bank has been able to help vulnerable customers through referral to Citizens Advice Manchester:
Case Study 1: The Bank has supported a customer, who was in financial difficulty as a result of lung cancer and ongoing related health conditions but had agreed a plan to reduce her overdraft. Unfortunately her benefit payment hadn’t been processed correctly resulting in the customer having no money, and she struggled to contact the Department of Work & Pensions to resolve the matter and when she did was unable to articulate her issue due to breathing difficulties. The Bank referred the customer to CAM who were able contact DWP on the customer’s behalf and resolve the benefits payment issue quickly.
Case Study 2: A customer had been out of work for several months due to ongoing mental health problems and had seen her monthly income reduced considerably as a result. The customer’s financial situation was also becoming one of the drivers for her depression.
The Bank referred the customer to CAM to conduct a benefit review to ensure that the customer was receiving her full entitlement. CAM identified a pension fund of £30k which the customer was eligible to access. They helped her with information allowing her to make an informed decision to release a percentage of her pension early which was used to clear debts with the Bank and several other creditors. The customer is now debt free and can fully focus on her own wellbeing now one of the key drivers has been removed.
About The Co-operative Bank
The Co-operative Bank plc provides a full range of banking products and services to around 4.4 million retail and SME (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) customers. The Bank is committed to values and ethics in line with the principles of the co-operative movement.
The Co-operative Bank is the only high street bank with a customer-led ethical policy which gives customers a say in how their money is used. Launched in 1992, the Policy has been updated on five occasions, with new commitments added in January 2015 to cover how the Bank operates its business, products and services, workplace and culture, relationships with suppliers and other stakeholders and campaigning.