Citizens Advice insight highlights vital financial inclusion role

I’ve taken the opportunity to reflect on a day that I’ve spent with Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent Citizens Advice Bureau, to understand how our ‘Your Money, Your Home’ (YMYH) project can work better in partnership with a key service.

Recently I met with Jan Channing and Ann Matthews of Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). As fellow partners on Blaenau Gwent’s Universal Support Delivered Locally trial, we felt that there was an opportunity for greater partnership working given that financial inclusion is at the heart of what we do. Discussions centred on the number of tenants that our project has worked with and how many were in need of in-depth financial advice and support. At the end of July, YMYH had worked with 98 private rented sector tenants, of which 64% had experienced difficulty keeping up with their bills over the previous twelve months.  We felt that having a direct referral system would be beneficial to us as organisations and to tenants in our communities.  Through our outreach work we hope to see more tenants having the opportunity to access the support provided by Citizens Advice for debts and benefit issues.

In order to gain a fuller understanding of the support and advice available from CAB, I agreed to spend a morning shadowing one of their advisors at a local drop-in point. So in the name of relationship building I met up with Callum from Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent Citizens Advice Bureau. Callum runs the Monday morning drop-in at Blaenau Gwent Civic Centre from 9am until 1pm. Clients call into the council’s reception, complete a short form of personal details and are seen on a first come, first served basis.

Throughout the morning, clients wanted help with a variety of issues including a benefit entitlement query following a reduction in working hours.  Another client was concerned that a change in health circumstances would affect his existing entitlements and wanted advice about applying for the attendance allowance.  A disabled gentleman who had recently been made redundant was returning to the drop-in for support to complete a claim form and finally there was a complaint about the quality of work done on a house through the ‘Green Deal’. Callum helped each person either at the time or, if more time was needed, he made an appointment for the following Monday afternoon.

It was also an opportunity for me to get a better understanding of their referral process – anyone can come along to the drop-in, call the office to obtain an appointment or contact Adviceline Cymru. Recently, advisors have become available at certain GP surgeries as part of the Better Advice, Better Lives project and links have been made with Torfaen Mind so people can access drop-in support at their Brynmawr offices.

The YMYH team is looking forward to closer working links with Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent.

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