Gloucester Mothers’ Union Money Advice Service (MUMAS) has been operating since 1992. MUMAS was set up in response to the 1990s’ ‘Decade of Evangelism’ initiative by the Church of England. The Mothers' Union in each diocese was challenged to set up an activity to benefit families in need. Given the financial pressures in economic downturn of the early 1990s, the Gloucester Diocese MU came up with the idea of MUMAS. The need for the work was evident from national indicators of financial difficulty and indebtedness, especially negative equity and property repossessions.
What is MUMAS?
MUMAS consists of a group (currently 10) of Advisers. People wishing to use the service mainly self-refer using our telephone answer phone, which is accessed daily by volunteers, or our e-mail account. In some cases, local Social Service departments refer clients to us. The telephone volunteers pass the enquiring client’s details to the co-ordinator, who then contacts the client to establish the nature of the enquiry. The co-ordinator accesses e-mail enquiries himself. If the enquiry is straightforward, the co-ordinator deals with it, but in most cases the details (which are usually quite sketchy at this stage) are passed to one of the advisers, who arranges to see the client in their own home. We do not work out of an office. The case is then dealt with by the adviser according to normal established money advice practice.
Although the service offered and the objectives of the organisation have not changed since MUMAS began, modern communications have played a part in how we operate, especially e-mail and use of internet to get information rather than using exclusively printed media.
MUMAS is run by a Committee of Management, with day to day organisation delegated to the Coordinator. The leadership has come from within the MU.
The main requirements are funding and volunteer time. Both come from within the church. Our only need for premises is to house our answer phone, which is in the diocesan MU office. The money comes from deaneries and churches. We have current reserves to last several years.
Calculated on the basis of the minimum wage
, the value of the volunteers’ contribution is around £1,500 pa.
We are members of AdviceUK
, which is a secular organisation acting as an ‘umbrella group’ for advice agencies, especially volunteer and community ones.
There have been 979 clients since the inception of the project. Success for a client is to get them to a stable position of having an affordable repayment plan that will get them debt-free in a reasonable time.
The key success factor is the ability and dedication of advisers.
Barriers are numerous. Sometimes creditors are unreasonable in their demands, but also sometimes clients are not willing or able to accept the discipline of financial stringency to work through to a debt-free position.
Challenges and opportunities
Increasing lack of work for poorly qualified young people is likely to be a significant challenge. The prospect of a long time on benefits is not an attractive one, and the availability of easy credit, which still exists, is likely to tempt many to overspend. Things will also get worse for many people who at present have manageable debts (especially a mortgage), even if they are in work, when interest rates do start to go back up.
Richard Grant http://www.gloucestermothersunion.com/GloucesterMUWebsite/MUMAS.htm