A life-saving Brixton advice service is to get vital funding from a charity established nearly 1,000 years ago.
The Brixton Advice Centre offers local foodbank users free legal advice to help them lift themselves out of poverty.
They speak to a specialist adviser to get help with issues including benefits, debt and housing.
The scheme It is being funded by a £105,800 grant over two years from City Bridge Trust – the City of London Corporation’s charity funder.
It traces its origins to Bridge Houses Estates, a charity founded in 1097 to maintain London Bridge.
People struggling to get by, or facing an unexpected change in circumstances, can get expert advice on how to deal with their immediate crisis, tackle the underlying issues which lead them to seek help, and get their lives back on track.
One of them was Michael, 59, from Brixton.
He contacted Norwood & Brixton Foodbank after his wife passed away and he found himself with nothing to eat and unable to sleep due to worry.
He had problems paying bills and getting on top of demands for payments from creditors.
The foodbank provided Michael with a supportive atmosphere, made sure he had sufficient food to get by, and linked him up with an adviser from the advice centre.
He was assisted by specialist money and benefits advisers, who helped him apply for and obtain a debt relief order.
They also helped to resolve issues he was having with benefit payments, which led to an increase in his regular income.
Michael says: “I couldn’t believe there were people who’d help me, I was depressed, I was in a right state.
“In the foodbank and at the advice centre, no-one judged me, they were just really calm and talked me through everything.
“We planned out the best way of sorting everything out and then they got on with it.”
“I can’t thank them enough. I really do think they’re lifesavers.”
Brixton Advice Centre chief executive Patrick Torsney said the service has a massive impact.
“We see people whose lives are in ruins and they can’t see a way through, reaching a point where they’re able to resolve the issues they’re facing and regain control of their lives.
“It’s not just about sorting out legal issues – it’s about showing them their problems can be solved and that there’s someone on their side.
“We’re able to make a life-changing intervention and have a positive impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”
Brixton Advice Centre, based for years in Railton Road, but now planning to move, has been helping local people since 1966.
It works with West Norwood based advice charity Centre 70, deploying advisers at foodbanks run by the Norwood & Brixton Foodbank.
Uptake of the service soared by 79 per cent during the first lockdown as people wrestled with issues such as losing their jobs, reduced hours at work and having to make new benefits claims due to the pandemic.
City Bridge Trust chairman Giles Shilson said: “The key to the success of this scheme is that it places resources where they are needed most, offering a lifeline to people at the sharp end, who find themselves in a situation where they’re struggling to put food on the table or heat their homes.
“The specialist advice service offers hope to people in their darkest hour, enabling them to sort out the problems which result in them needing to use a foodbank in the first place and to look to the future with renewed optimism.”