A housing provider has scooped a national award for its work to help people deal with millions of pounds of debt.
The FISH (Free Impartial Support and Help) shop, which has helped Wellingborough residents conquer more than £7.6 million in debt, won Wellingborough Homes Campaign of the Year at the UK Housing Awards.
The awards, which recognise outstanding work by housing organisations to improve the lives of people in their communities, are organised by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and Inside Housing magazine.
Wellingborough Homes, which runs the service in partnership with local support organisations like the Community Law Service, beat off stiff competition in the category and was revealed as the winner at a ceremony at the Lancaster London Hotel hosted by stand-up comedian Marcus Brigstocke.
Mo Baker, head of customer and support services at Wellingborough Homes, said: “We are delighted to win what is a prestigious award.
“When we launched FISH our aim was to give support to those who needed it at a time when they are most vulnerable.
“Organisations in the area which provided support at the time were themselves threatened by continuing funding cuts, so the aim was to give them a shop front and allow them to continue to do what they do.
“The results have gone from strength-to-strength and exceeded our expectations.
“People know that they can use the shop for support which is exactly what we wanted and are looking to expand the support even further.
“This award recognises all of the hard work which has been put in, not just at Wellingborough Homes, but by all of our partners at FISH who have been fantastic.”
FISH was set up by Wellingborough Homes two years ago in a refurbished shop in Cambridge Street to provide practical support to people on everything from financial problems to finding a job.
In that time the organisations based at the FISH shop, which include the Community Law Service, The Mallows Company and Women’s Aid, have dealt with more than 18,000 individual enquiries.
As well as helping to conquer £7.6 million in debt, they have also helped people claim £5.4 million in unclaimed or unfairly cut benefits, won more than 1,000 disputes, appeals or tribunals and represented residents at housing hearings since the launch of FISH.
More than 750 local people have also been helped into training and employment since the launch of the FISH shop thanks to The Mallows Company, which operates on behalf of the National Careers Service, and Working Links.
CIH chief executive, Grainia Long said: “As ever, the quality of the entries we received this year is evident from the fantastic standard of the finalists.”
Stuart Macdonald, editor of Inside Housing, said: “The quality of the entries rose again this year so even to get this far is an amazing achievement. In the face of some really stiff competition, Wellingborough Homes has shown it is performing at the highest level.”