First aid in times of financial fuss

A young person losing their job, a freelancer going through a rough patch, an older person losing their partner: these are all examples of people who could find themselves getting into financial difficulties. The Humanitas voluntary organisation helps these people to get a grip on their finances. By giving them insight into their income and expenditure, helping them get rid of any debts and teaching them how to handle money responsibly. It's called working toward financial independence and Rabobank likes to have a share in that. That is why the bank is supporting the Humanitas project ‘Home Administration’.

Home Administration programme offers new opportunities for people with temporary financial problems

Financial problems have a huge impact. People can gradually become socially isolated. For example, they may no longer be able to visit their parents because they cannot afford public transport. Their children may no longer be able to attend their friends' birthday parties, because there is no money for a present. A gym membership and going on holiday may no longer be an option. This means their world gets smaller and smaller. Their self-esteem ends up suffering as well, because there are so many things they are unable to take part in.

Prevention is better than cure

Offering support early on can prevent a world of trouble later. For this reason, Humanitas is working together with those who can flag up problems in a timely manner, such as debt-counselling organisations, social services and elderly people's networks. People who let Humanitas know they would like to take part are visited by a volunteer who goes through their financial situation with them. Participants learn how they can organise their administration so that they can get a proper overview of their household cash flow once again. The volunteer does not take on any of these people's tasks for them. The goal is for them to end up managing their own finances, independently.

Everything in order

Volunteer Maaike van Noppen and Cinthia Uchoa, who is one of the participants in the Home Administration programme, share their experiences. Van Noppen: ‘The first time I visited Cinthia, I stayed for seven hours. I don't know if that was the plan exactly, but the situation was so hectic. Cinthia was in the middle of a difficult divorce and she had to find a new house, apply for benefits, consult with her lawyer, and in the meantime, her electricity almost ended up being cut off. Her husband had always done the administration; she had no idea about the kinds of things that needed to be sorted out. The fact that Cinthia is from Brazil and does not speak fluent Dutch didn't exactly help matters. I supported her, but in the end, she did everything herself. I'm very proud of her. Now she's got everything in order and has long stopped needing my weekly visits.’

Focus on doing it for yourself

Uchoa: ‘It was a really intense period, but Maaike was there for me whenever I needed her. In the beginning I often rang her if something was up: “Could you please help me?” Maaike made sure we stayed on top of things and often accompanied me to appointments with official bodies, but she lets me do a lot myself. For instance, I make phone calls myself. Maaike listens and comes to the rescue whenever necessary. Making calls and arranging things I tend to be able to manage, but I still find sending letters and e-mails quite tricky and I often ask her to help me with that sort of thing. In addition, Maaike is also someone I feel I can trust – a confidante, if you will. My family lives in Brazil, so it's great that I've got her to call upon and that we get on so well.’

‘There's often a lot of shame associated with it.’

Roelie van Stempvoort, Rabobank Foundation

Financial crisis is palpable

The project clearly meets a need. ‘Poverty and debt problems are a growing issue,’ says Roelie van Stempvoort of Rabobank Foundation, which has entered into a partnership with Humanitas. ‘Since 2010, the number of applications for the Home Administration programme has increased by 40 percent. A total of eight thousand people had been helped by the initiative by the end of 2013. This year, the total will probably hit the ten thousand mark. It's not an easy topic. There's often a lot of shame associated with it. However, it's important that we bring these problems out into the open, so that people can ask for help in good time and we can prevent them from sinking into even deeper trouble.’

Rabobank makes use of its network

Rabobank is also making use of its network. Local Rabobanks are pursuing cooperation with potential partners such as housing associations, local councils and energy providers. They have an important responsibility to bring any arrears to light, which then enables Home Administration to provide help in an early stage. The bank is also recruiting volunteers from among its retired workforce. Their professional background enables them to assist with financial problems and help people set up a reliable administration system.

Van Stempvoort: 'We aim to expand our volunteer pool significantly by recruiting 1200 people. The goal is that by 2016, we will have around 3500 volunteers ready to support the increasing number of people asking for help. Humanitas will provide these volunteers with a training, which is developed by the National Institute for Family Finance Information (NIBUD). After their training, these volunteers should be able to help 34,000 people. Those who are interested can apply via the Humanitas website.'

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