Debt service in line for top award

A SPECIALIST debt advice service for people with mental health problems has received national recognition.

Durham County Council’s welfare rights service will battle it out for a top honour at the Institute of Money Advisors (IMA) Performance Awards 2011.

The service has been short-listed in the Best Partnership Award category for its debt advice project.

Launched in October, the initiative is specifically aimed at limiting the impact of debt on people with mental health problems by providing advice and support.

The debt advice project currently has two advisors who provide information and advice to individuals and groups.

As well as advising on improving debt management skills, advisers can help residents ensure they are claiming any benefits or other forms of help they may be entitled to, such as specialist employment support or vocational training.

Funded for one year through the County Durham Health and Wellbeing Partnership, the scheme is due to end in September. But efforts are also being made to ensure work to help people with mental health problems deal with debt continues in the long-term.

Activities include awareness briefings for mental health staff about common debt situations, money guidance sessions for service users, debt advice drop-in surgeries and mental health and debt awareness sessions for local creditors such as housing providers.

The winners of the awards will be announced on Monday, May 16, at a ceremony in Kenilworth, Warwickshire.