Who are Pennysmart?
Pennysmart Community Interest Company is a social enterprise that began as a pilot project in 2009. We use our money advice skills, knowledge and expertise to enable the most vulnerable and excluded people in our communities to access their full entitlements, exercise their rights, improve their money skills, take control and increase their overall quality of life and sense of well-being.
Currently working across Wales and parts of England, we generate income by contracting with community facing organisations such as local authorities, social landlords and third sector groups to deliver specialist money, debt and benefits advice services. We also work within those communities running fun, short ‘Bite Size’ money skills sessions, training for staff and volunteers and we promote financial capability and related initiatives via networks, newsletters and the N Wales Financial Capability Forum quarterly meetings in the region.
Beginning as a pilot project in the North East Wales community in Jan 2009, a collaboration between Wales & West Housing Association with funding from Barclays Money Skills, initially called ‘Moneysavers’. It was conceived following the success of the ‘Debt Redemption And Money Advice’ or ‘DRAMA’ project in South Wales; a partnership between Wales Cooperative, Coalfields Regeneration and The Consumer Credit Counselling Service.
The project proved successful, helping to maximise income and find cost savings of over £1500 a year on average for tenants. Funding remained in place for further 12 months, then in Spring 2010 following an evaluation and feasibility study, it was confirmed that with the right business plan and delivery model, there was potential for a self-sustaining social enterprise.
The legal form was chosen, to give maximum ability for the enterprise to adapt and flex in a fast changing, challenging market, and in June 2010 PennysmartCIC became incorporated as a community interest company under the lead of Project Manager Jayne Bellis, a safe pair of hands with 15 years experience in the free debt advice industry and a wide reaching network of contacts.
Since June 2010 PennysmartCIC has gone on to expand its debt, benefits and money advice services and provide service contracts to a number of housing associations, charitable trusts, third sector organisations and community groups across North West England and North Wales. In 2011 they were chosen as forum lead for North Wales Citizens Advice Financial Capability Forum and coordinators for their Energy Best Deals Campaigns in 2011, 2012 and again this year. 2012 saw the launch of ‘Bite Size’ community money skills workshops enabling PennysmartCIC to work closely with community groups with small or zero budgets.
PennysmartCIC continues to go from strength to strength and to fund itself entirely from trading income, proud of our reputation for quality, reliability, value for money, knowledge, independence and sustainability, we are now entering our fourth trading year and facing new and exciting challenges.
We continue the war against poverty and financial exclusion with the delivery of our 4 channels of work - advice services, staff & volunteer training, the North Wales forum and Bite Size money skills.
What is a CIC?
A CIC is a type of company for people who want to be involved in a business that benefits the community (the population as a whole or a specific group), rather than just the owners, managers or employees - a social enterprise.
The special features of a CIC make them particularly suitable for this purpose. A CIC Can be a public limited company limited by shares or a company limited by guarantee, and will have the same benefits and obligations as other companies of its type, including registration at Companies House.
To be eligible to be a CIC, an enterprise or business must pass the ‘Community Interest Test’. This means that the Regulator must be satisfied that the activities of the enterprise or business will be carried on for the benefit of the community.
Every CIC Must:
- Meet the Community Interest Test
- File an annual CIC Report with its accounts
- Keep the community in touch with its activities
- Only use its assets & profits (including dividends) for the community specified (or pass them to another organisation with similar features e.g. a charity) - this is known as the ‘asset lock’
- Be registered at Companies House in the same way as a normal company with the same incorporation documents but supplemented by a Community Interest Statement
Monitoring & compliance
The CIC Regulator an independent public official, decides whether a company can be a CIC and will oversee its continuing conduct and activities. The Regulator has investigation and enforcement powers that can be used if there is cause for concern.