In 1990, a small group of individuals were appalled and affronted by the abject poverty that they saw in Bristol. They decided to set up a charity which tackled poverty and financial problems and that has been Talking Money’s mission ever since, empowering people to take control over their lives. It started as the Bristol Debt Advice Centre as a volunteer-run grassroots organisation in response the hardship faced by many in Bristol following the 1980’s recession. Beginning life in the basement of one of the founder’s homes, BDAC grew in size and reputation through the support of early volunteers and a strong staff team.
1990 – 2000
In the 1990’s volunteers were trained to deliver advice sessions, and a small office space was secured at the Elmgrove Centre in Redland, subsequently relocating to a small shop front premises in the heart of Easton. The first major grants were secured form the Tudor Trust, Church Urban Fund and Bristol City Council, and community outreach session were set up in Knowle West and Lawrence Weston. An independent evaluation of services carried out in 1996 concluded ‘…this evaluation has shown BDAC as a highly professional, specialist money advice agency providing a high quality service for the people of Bristol. Its work is a vital part of advice work generally and provides a crucial lifeline for people at one of the most distressing time of their lives’.
Also in 1996, Nick Park CBE (of Aardman Animations) started supporting BDAC as patron, providing invaluable support for many years until his departure in 2009. In the late 1990’s BDAC achieved Legal Aid Franchise status, which provided welcome financial security and the opportunity for some organisational growth – e.g. starting new community outreach sessions started in Easton, St Pauls and Lockleaze.
2000 – 2010
In 2001 BDAC relocated again – this time to the top floor of the new Sofa Project building in West Street, which would remain the charity’s home until 2013. In 2006 further major funding was secured from the ‘Financial Inclusion Fund’ – BDAC became the lead agency for a partnership of 7 agencies delivering face-to-face debt advice in Bristol, North Somerset and Gloucester. Soon after this the Energy Advice Project was launched through funding from the EDF Energy Trust – a subsequent expansion was possible through funding from the and British Gas Energy Trust. The charity worked on preventive strategies as well as debt advice, developing financial capability work and setting up the ‘Futures Room’ to help clients maximise their income and manage their budgets. This led to BDAC being appointed jointly with Bristol CAB as Lead Agencies for the Wessex Financial Capability Forum.
2010 – present
By this time BDAC had gained national recognition for its expertise, and in 2011 the Advice Manager acted a consultant to Bosnia’s first Debt Advice Centre. The following year a new ‘Secure and Warm’ partnership led by BDAC secured 3 year funding from Comic Relief to deliver money advice to older people.
2013 was a year of unprecedented change for BDAC. The ending of Legal Aid for Debt Advice resulting in redundancies and organisational restructuring; the arrival of a new Chief Executive after six months of short term/ interim arrangements; the purchasing, move to and refurbishment of the charity’s new premises with a shop front in West Street, Bristol; participating as one of 10 agencies forming a national partnership to bid for national contracts; securing new and extended funding streams, and deciding to rebrand to more accurately reflect our mission and service aims. These changes for BDAC/Talking Money took place against a backdrop of unprecedented wider challenges – a global recession, cuts to funding in the public and voluntary sectors, rising levels of debt, Welfare Reform changes impacting on vulnerable households – all of these resulted in increased need and demand for the charity services.
In February 2014 the refurbishment of the new premises at 1 Hide Market, West Street was complete, with a remodelled reception, a self- help area and facilities for disabled people significantly improving the accessibility of the service. The new building and our change of name to ‘Talking Money’ were celebrated together at an event attended by Bristol’s Lord Mayor, Cllr. Frank Choudhury.