Working with the First Love Foundation is the best thing Lee Fearon has done in his 30-year career.
Lee is the Tower Hamlet Council’s benefits policy manager and has worked in various benefits roles since 1985.
Since 2013, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets has partnered with First Love Foundation, who along with the Child Poverty Action Group provide benefits advice to the people at the foodbank as part of their Advice & Support Service.
“I work in an office and personally very rarely have face-to-face contact with the public. Working with the First Love Foundation and looking at how desperate people are puts a sharp focus onto the work that you do,” he says. “It shows that you can make a difference to people’s lives and I do thank First Love Foundation for that, because without face-to-face access it’d be much harder.”
First Love Foundation founder Denise approached Lee in 2013 to ask for his help sorting out a complicated case.
“I thought I should come down to their headquarters and see what’s going on. I work in benefits policy and part of my job is looking at how we respond to various challenges. One of the challenges we have is access and how people access various benefits,” Lee says.
The relationship grew from there.
“Through First Love’s partnership with the Child Poverty Action Group and the help we can bring, we stand a good chance of sorting someone’s problems out and that’s what I really like about it.”
It’s only when you can see people on a regular basis and see how they can fall through the cracks, that you can understand what you need to lift them up.
“If I could list my achievements, at the top would be working with First Love Foundation because it personifies what we’re trying to do. It puts a face on it.”
Housing benefits policy manager
Lee says that working with the Foundation means that the local authority can get instant access to people in crisis and start unpicking the problems that people are having before they get even worse.
“It gives me a bit of hope because if the service wasn’t there we wouldn’t get to see these people and their problems may not be sorted out. It’d certainly be a lot further down the line.”
He says that working with First Love Foundation alongside the Council’s local authority benefits service works really well for everyone involved.
“This may be partly due to the fact that their benefits have been stopped and they are being chased for money.
Hopefully it demonstrates that we may be able to help them to sort out their current benefit problems and once this trust has been established they are more likely to contact us in future to prevent the problems re-occurring.
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