Staff Profile: Kathie Clark
I joined Turn2us two years ago as a New Business Development Manager within the commercial team and have recently moved to the newly created role of Corporate Development Manager. Before joining, I was the Head of Business Development at the national free legal advice service LawWorks. Previously, I worked as a Commercial Officer at the cycling charity CTC; as an Account Manager at the Legal Services Commission (working with legal aid solicitors on quality assurance and contract management); and for many years managed a debt advice centre on behalf of Richmond Citizens Advice Bureaux Service. I also ran a sports coaching business during a career break while looking after my son, who is now in his second year at university.
In my current role at Turn2us, I work with providers of essential services (such as water, fuel, financial services and transport) to develop an information and referral service to help people on low incomes to cope with bills. These partnerships will be on a commercial basis and will generate income for Turn2us, enabling us to continue to provide much-needed services for people on low incomes.
The effects of struggling on a low income
Managing household bills and finding ways to cut bills can be difficult and confusing for anyone. People helped by Turn2us have told us that managing a tight budget on a low income can be extremely stressful, in some cases leading to ill health.
Our survey with low income households in September 2015* found that half of the people we spoke to struggled to pay energy bills and a third skipped meals.
People also told us that they were not aware that some energy suppliers have charitable trusts that can help with bills. Only 12% of those struggling with bills had told their energy supplier and only 5% sought help from an advice organisation.
What is so shocking is that help with essential bills exists but people either don’t know about it or find the prospect of approaching their service provider just too off-putting. That’s where we have a unique opportunity to be their voice and to get help for them.
Extending our services to help more people cope with bills
Turn2us has made a real difference to the lives of people facing poverty by providing support and access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and a range of other services. Our digital services were used by almost 4 million people last year and my work involves using this extensive reach to help people who are struggling to pay essential bills. I am aiming to extend our service by linking directly to information about support available from providers of essential services to cut the cost of bills. This will provide easy to access, tailored and comprehensive help to people who are facing financial problems.
Generating income through commercial partnerships
We have already set up a range of income-generating commercial partnership services. Recently, we partnered with the Consumer Council for Water to provide the Turn2us online tools on the CCWater website to help people who are facing water poverty or finding it difficult to manage water bills. We have linked information on social tariff schemes to the Turn2us Grant Search tool so that people are directed to financial help available from water companies in their local area. We are also in discussion with a number of water companies regarding managing their social tariff schemes.
Other services that we provide commercially on a charged-for basis are enhanced benefit calculators for advisers, training, grant administration and telephone helpline services.
The Turn2us service to help people cut their bills will be free to use and at its heart is our mission to improve the lives of people living in poverty in the UK. We will be able to reach people who are currently disengaged from help available as they are not aware of schemes such as social tariffs or who have not felt able to contact their essential service suppliers for help. Customising our online tools will enable us to direct this help to people for whom it is designed.
The focus of my work to date in the charity sector has been on empowering people to manage difficult situations and become financial sustainable. My new role as Corporate Development Manager will develop the work of Turn2us further. In addition to maximising income we will be providing targeted solutions to decrease bills for people who are struggling financially.
When I’m not at Turn2us, I volunteer as a judo coach at Westcroft Judo Club in Sutton. I’m currently working toward my 3rd dan judo black belt. In the last year, I have taken up the piano again after a very long gap and hope (after much practice) to pass Grade 8 this year.
*Research conducted with Research Now. Total sample size was 2,001 adults with gross annual household incomes of £30,000 and less.