A report on the introduction of a Financial Inclusion Service at Norwich Foodbank The ‘Making a Difference' project

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Abstract

Background: Food insecurity is when a family or individual struggles to have enough to eat and is associated with uncertainty, worry, anxiety and hunger. Foodbanks provide emergency food provision. This need can be triggered by a change in circumstance or a crisis, or not having long-term sufficient income. Failures in the social security safety net are the most significant driver for hunger in the UK. There is some evidence that an advisory service which runs alongside a foodbank is more effective in reducing emergency provision and the duration and severity of hunger.

The ‘Making a Difference’ project at Norwich Foodbank is a pilot scheme aiming to increase financial resilience in their service users. From summer 2022 Norwich Foodbank introduced new advice worker roles, in partnership with Shelter and the British Red Cross, to work alongside an existing Citizen’s Advice worker. All three roles are funded through specialist grant funding streams. The aim of these roles is to pre-empt the need for foodbank use, to triage the financial needs of service users and refer appropriately to reduce repeat visits to the foodbank.

The brief: This independent research by University of East Anglia (UEA) aimed to evaluate how effectively these roles are working and to:
1) Understand how well the roles are operating on a practical level (identifying barriers, facilitators and any potential friction points in referrals and partnership working)
2) Whether the service is operating as intended
3) What learning points are there so that the service can be adapted appropriately

What we did:
From July to October 2022, we interviewed the Foodbank Manager to have a greater understanding of the aims of the ‘Making a difference project’ and four staff and four volunteers.

Main findings: Our independent research points to a service that is supporting people with highly complex needs that is provided in a compassionate and person-centered way and cuts across multiple agencies. It aims to holistically provide a service that ‘wraps around’ the person.

The volunteers and staff are highly experienced and use their connections to work collaboratively and seamlessly with the individual. This not only efficient but it also reduces the need for distressing stories to be repeated thus helping to reduce shame and stigma and build trust.

Sitting in the heart of a community, especially when in community cafés, helps to promote the service and break down barriers. The consequence of this is that the service is reaching ‘seldom heard’ clients who would traditionally not have accessed support, despite their often dire needs. This puts Norwich Foodbank in a unique position as they adapt their service going forward.

There was mutual respect and understanding between the volunteers and the advice workers with volunteers integral in building trusting relationships and reducing stigma. They are all proud of the work they do. However, our findings suggest that they are providing a ‘frontline’ service, often listening to distressing life stories. We suggest that there is consideration given to the vicarious trauma that could result from this.

Recommendations: We suggest that the findings from this baseline evaluation are used by Norwich Foodbank to help them develop their financial inclusion provision for people who are traditionally excluded but who are accessing them through their emergency Foodbank service in the heart of communities. Staff and
volunteers would provide excellent insights into planning a service for the
future, beyond providing emergency food aid.

To consider the role of providing social prescribing, as Norwich Foodbank is
uniquely placed to access people at high risk, with highly complex needs in
our seldom heard communities.

Working with people with complex needs is emotionally demanding and staff
and volunteers may benefit from additional opportunities to share experiences
and for support.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2022

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