Annual Report Citizens Advice Bureau

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Annual Report Citizens Advice Bureau
Citizens Advice Bureau
WEST LOTHIAN
Annual Report
2011/12
Citizens Advice Bureau West Lothian
Annual Report 2011/12
Aims of West Lothian
Citizens Advice Bureau
Message from the
Management Committee
Chairperson
How We Achieve
Our Aims
West Lothian CAB operates an accessible, independent, quality advice and
information service that is well used by the members of the community it
serves and is a trusted source of advice, information, advocacy and support
on a wide range of, primarily, poverty-related issues.
This year the Bureau has had a huge challenge in relation to the premises
move but I am delighted to report that despite a few hitches its been a huge
success with staff settled into a new modern working environment. Thanks
for WLC and other funders that made this possible.
The bureau covers a geographical boundary covering West Lothian towns,
with a population of c172,080 residents. The area comprises some of
the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Scotland such as Craigshill,
Ladywell and Polkemmet which fall within the 7% most severe pockets of
deprivation in Scotland.
Every year I report that the Bureau has seen a rise in the enquiries and this
year has been no different as we seen an increase in debt, housing and
legal issues. To assist with this increase we have increased capacity of our
money advice team as well as increasing appointments are our legal clinic.
• We are open to all residents of West Lothian.
•
We provide independent and impartial advice and information on social, legal and personal matters.
• Advisers are trained to a high standard.
• Interviews are free, confidential and impartial.
• We use a comprehensive, up to date information system.
• We are accountable to community members.
• We carry out social security benefit checks and look to maximise income.
• We carry out licenced money advice.
• We provide talks on the work of the service to community groups.
• We provide NHS complaints service.
• We offer comprehensive and professional training opportunities.
2
During the year 2011/12 the bureau received 4597 client contacts from
people seeking help on 9766 problems on a wide range of social, personal
and legal problems.
Aims
Our service is to ensure that individuals do not suffer through a lack of
knowledge, of their rights and responsibilities or of the services available to
them or through an inability to express their needs effectively.
And equally
To exercise a responsible influence on the development of social policies,
both locally and nationally.
Thankfully, we were once again able to attract grant funding, which allowed
us to extend staff contracts to support the volunteer staff.
I would like to thank the volunteers, a cross mix of our community who deliver
a great service to the people in our community who really need it. I also thank
my fellow committee members for their support. I would like to thank all the
paid staff over the year; they have adapted well to change and supported the
volunteers. I would also like to welcome the new committee members that
have joined throughout the year.
I would like to extend a thank you to all our stakeholders and funders for their
continuing support in the last year and look forward to working with them in
the future. A special thank you goes to Anne Davidson who has served the
Bureau, as a volunteer adviser and laterally as a member of our committee
since 1983. Anne has decided to call it a day and I am all of her colleagues
on the committee wish her well for the future.
This is my final Annual Report as Chairperson of the Bureau. I will be standing
down at the AGM. I have been the Chairperson since 1995 and it is time to
hand over the reins to someone else. So I would like to take this opportunity
to thank all the volunteers, paid staff, committee members who I have had
the pleasure to have worked with throughout the years – THANK YOU.
Margaret Schönberger
Management Committee Chairperson
3
Citizens Advice Bureau West Lothian
Annual Report 2011/12
Manager’s Report
Support staff
The paid staff team have been dedicated and supportive througout
the year. The team was strengthening with the post of a Training
& Development Officer and we are hopeful that we can keep this
grant-funded post as it has become essential.
Premises
The decision was made to upgrade Shiel House and due to
lack of other suitable premises we had to remain in the building
while the work was being carried out. This brought challenges
but we are settled into our newly refurbished premises. I would
like to thank Michael Chappin whose support and expert opinion
has allowed us to achieve the aim of having premises that are fit
for purpose and more suitable for the Bureau image. I also thank West
Lothian Council who supported us by allowing us to design our office space.
“ Throughout the
year the Bureau
has continued
to develop its
partnership working
with agencies such
as Council advice
shop...
”
The team I work with in the Bureau is first class, from Management
committee, front line advisers, admin team and the paid staff team. Each
one of them is absolutely committed to delivering a quality advice and
information service to the residents of West Lothian. It has been another
challenging yet rewarding year.
The commitment of the volunteers was awarded when they won West
Lothian Voluntary Organisation of the Year and the trophy is proudly
displayed in the Bureau.
To take forward our aim of trying to reach the most vulnerable people we
extended our outreach service and now work in 3 different outlets. We now
deliver outreach services in Blackburn, West Calder and Fauldhouse and
Addiewell Prison.
West Lothian Council, Bank Of Scotland Foundation, Lloyds TSB and
Nationwide Foundation have all assisted the Bureau in its service delivery
by providing funds which has allowed us to increase access or to carry out
specialist projects, in particular, to employ a full time Debt Support Worker
who does complex casework as well as supporting volunteer advisers.
Volunteers
The wonderful volunteer team carries out the entire front line delivery of
advice. This year we have been able to increase our volunteer staffing
levels to 38 generalist advisers, 6 admin, 4 specialist advisers and 2 social
policy workers. Each of the volunteer staff carries out an essential, trusted
and quality advice service.
4
Through funding available through CAS Development Committee and
Clothworkers Foundation we have managed to replace furniture, IT and
telephone systems and the new premises have a bright & modern feel.
Partnership working
Throughout the year the Bureau has continued to develop its partnership
working with agencies such as Council advice shop, West Lothian Financial
Inclusion Network and local Credit Unions and Housing Associations.
All agencies are keen to work in partnership, which improves referral, and
joint working opportunities that assists our clients.
We have also been active members of the council’s anti poverty strategy
and assisted in its delivery. This has been done through increasing money
advice, income maxisation and engaging with the most vulnerable clients
though the work that we do in the G.P surgeries.
Welfare reform impacts
Our advisers are already dealing with clients who have been affected by the
welfare reforms and we will be recording how they have impacted on client’s
health and well being. We will continue to do this throughout this year and
work with our partners to deal with the increased demand.
Debt and money advice
Our money advice enquiries are still the highest area of advice and the
demand continues to grow. The cases are complex, time consuming and
have multiple issues attached but thankfully the specialist money advice
team are well equipped to deal with these cases. I would like to thank this
team for their dedication and commitment throughout the year and to West
Lothian Council who funded the debt support worker this year.
“ Our money advice
enquiries are still
the highest area
of advice and the
demand continues
to grow.
”
5
Citizens Advice Bureau West Lothian
Annual Report 2011/12
Money advice service
This is now into its 2nd year and the service is complementing existing
provisions as well as assisting client who desperately need the
service. We have worked along side PACE providing support to
clients being made redundant and worked with companies with
West Lothain and surrounding areas to offer a face to face
service that assists people to re-evaluate priories etc as the
devastation of redundancies hit.
Summary of Main
Statistical Information
1st April 2011- 31st March 2012
Legal rota
We also continue to see a rise in the legal issues surrounding family,
divorce, separation and other issues that require the assistance
of a solicitor. Thanks to Drummond & Miller and Keegan Smith
we are able to operate a monthly legal clinic that is very popular
amongst our clients.
Specialist employment advice
“ I would like to take
this opportunity
to thank the team
whose support and
commitment to the
service has been
outstanding.
”
Over the past couple of years we have experienced a 26% increase in our
employment related enquiries. Unfortunately, this pattern reflects the job
loss and the devastation and problems that this can cause.
Total Clients 4597
Advice Issues
Due to volunteer effort by Geoff Bonnelle, our specialist employment adviser
we have assisted 13 clients to challenge unfair employment decisions, 10
of these cases settled out of court, one case withdrawn and two proceeding
to the tribunal. The client financial gain for the year was £23,986.27.
E-mail
600
Fax
2
Benefits, Tax Credits and National Insurance
2215
Letter
222
Consumer Goods and Services
232
Personal
3034
Debt
3012
The future
Telephone
628
Education
33
As I look ahead to what the coming year brings I am apprehensive of how
the welfare reforms will impact on clients and how we will deal with the extra
demand that it will put upon our service. I am confident that with our team
that we will continue to meet these challenges and continue to deliver a
quality advice service.
Employment
1340
Financial Products and Services
477
Health and Community Care
91
Housing
728
Immigration, Asylum and Nationality
30
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the team whose support and
commitment to the service has been outstanding.
Legal
633
NHS Complaints
83
Relationships
445
Tax
191
Utilities and Communication
150
Travel, Transport and Holidays
106
Issue
Karen McGhee
Manager
Total Issues
Money Advice
6
Number of Cases
118
Total Debt Rescheduled
£3,162,157
No.
9766
Total Client Financial Gain Through
Income Maximisation
£1,238,042
7
Annual Report 2011/12
Our Support Staff
Michael Purdon
Session Supervisor
Debbi McCall
Training Co-ordinator
It has been another busy year for our front line
I joined the bureau as Training
advice service. We experienced one of our
Co-ordinator at the end of June 2011,
Advice Bureau West Lothian
busiest times ever during January & Citizens
February.
having previously been a volunteer at
An increasing number of people are contacting us
Penicuik CAB.
for advice. We are also finding that more & more
Karen and I have delivered two Basic Training Courses
people are contacting us regarding multiple issues rather
this year, assisted by Emmanuelle Le Coz from Citizens Advice Scotland.
than just one single problem. It is not uncommon for a client to contact us
I would like to thank Emmanuelle for her help and assistance. 20 people
about one problem only for further issues to arise. For example, a client may
commenced training. Sixteen trainees have become qualified advisers. Basic
contact us because their marriage has broken up. They may view this one
Training has a practical element as well as being classroom based and our
issue, however, the reality is that this encompasses a number of matters
volunteer Mentors take on this aspect. I would like to thank our Mentors for
that need to be addressed. The client may ask for advice on how to get a
their help and support. We could not do the training without them!
divorce, however, this may also entail giving advice on housing, debt, child
support, & benefits.
The bureau has welcomed three local pupils on work experience placements
The governments much publicised changes to the welfare benefits system
are also underway. There have already changes in respect of Housing
Benefit, Employment & Support Allowance & tax credits and with further,
major changes, still to come this has had & will have an impact on the
advice we give both now & in the years to come. In order to ready ourselves;
for these changes a training plan has been put in place to ensure that our
advisors are fully briefed as to what these will be & how they will impact on
our clients. As well as in house training we will also be inviting speakers from
the DWP & HMRC to do presentations & provide training. We have already
had a presentation from West Lothian Council’s Revenues Department in
respect of the changes to Housing Benefit.
Michael Purdon
Sessionvisor
8
for one week each. They enjoyed their placements and we very much enjoyed
their enthusiasm and commitment to the bureau.
I arrange for guest speakers to deliver informal training to our all staff meetings,
which are held on a monthly basis. We have had a variety of speakers, including
Skills Development Scotland, West Lothian Council, Signpost, West Lothian
Trading Standards, Scottish Mediation Network, Homestart, Open Door and
one of our local Members of Parliament, Graeme Morrice MP. I would like to
thank all our guest speakers for their time. We find our guest speakers to be
an invaluable source of information.
Debbi McCall
Training Co-ordinator
9
Citizens Advice Bureau West Lothian
Annual Report 2011/12
Our Partnerships
Fiona MacPherson
Receptionist/Admin
After months of dust and upheaval we finally
settled into our refurbished premises.
Everyone coming into the bureau has made
positive comments on the light and airy
ambience of reception, interview rooms and office space. We have
experienced a few testing times with IT
and Telephone systems but these are now behind us.
We continue to offer email and telephone advice along with our dropin facility. There are now more appointments available to clients with
financial issues through the Money Advice Service. This has lead to
an increase in Money Advice Team Paperwork Check and Options
appointments available to clients. The Outreach services still prove very
popular and convenient for local clients at Blackburn Health Centre and
Addiewell Prison with the addition of an Outreach service in operation at
West Calder Health Centre.
Fiona MacPherson
Receptionist/Admin
Work in G.P Practices
- West Lothian
Following the success of the work carried out in Ashgrove
Health Centre we were keen to replicate this in other
areas across West Lothian. Through discussion with
practice managers we developed a service in West
Calder, which operates on a Tuesday afternoon. We have
also introduced a rapid referral system for the Craisghill
practice.
We recognise the work that we do in G.P practices in key
in assisting clients that most need our help, an evaluation
was carried out amongst these clients and they informed
us that: • 60% of the clients felt less stressed after speaking to an adviser
• 47% of people felt their quality of life had improved
• 79% of people were better off a result of the advice/information received
• 100% would recommend and use the service again
10
Court Project
West Lothian Court Advice Project is
funded by the Scottish Legal Aid Board, it
is a joint partnership project between CAB
West Lothian and WLC Advice Shop. A management
board containing two members from each partnership
organisation governs the project.
The advice needs of the client group are not currently met
through any other provision. West Lothian Council advice
shop and Citizens Advice Bureau service rely on this vital
service.
The workers offer help with income maximisation and
money advice to people they identify in the course of this
project.
The service will be advertised through our current network
of council and other voluntary organisations, Sheriff’s
and staff at Livingston court, Advice Shop, Citizens
Advice Bureau.
Following the work that is carried out by the staff the project
assisted over 1000 clients to sustain their tenancies.
11
Citizens Advice Bureau West Lothian
Annual Report 2011/12
Specialist Money Advice
All of our money advice workers give an excellent service to their clients
and are duly recognised within the bureau for the good work that
they do.
They also provide excellent support to each other and our frontline
generalist advisers on a regular basis.
Citizens Advice Bureau is not just an organisation that gives advice
on various subjects, we are also an organisation that cares, an
organisation that does not judge, an organisation that listens and
offers support to clients regardless of how their problems arose
or their social status.
Fiona Sampson
Debt Support Worker
Money Advice Service
In terms of the number of cases this was the Bureau’s busiest year with debt
enquiries. As well as receiving new cases in high numbers we continued to
do complex casework for repeat clients. The cases range from Mortgage
to rent, sequestration, offer payments and the Debt Arrangement Scheme.
“ All of our money
advice workers give
an excellent service
to thier clients and
are duly recognised
within the bureau for
the good work that
they do.
”
The Bureau had a substantial increase in clients applying for sequestration
and the figure has doubled since the year before. Quite often clients debts
levels are so high, they have no prospect of paying the debts back in their
lifetime. Therefore the most suitable debt relief option is sequestration.
However, we predict that there may be a drop in sequestration applications in
the coming year due to major changes to bankruptcy legislation.
In 2011, two members of the Bureau’s Money Advice Team became Debt
Arrangement Scheme Approved Money Advisers. So far, 5 successful DAS
applications have been made and 3 more cases are in the process of being
submitted. We anticipate when the scheme is marketed more than the need
to this scheme will increase.
We have also trained an additional money advice admin assistant to help
with the increase in new cases. We now have two fully trained money advice
admin assistants who perform paperwork checks and carry out any other
required money advice admin tasks.
Last year was our first year of delivery the face to face element of the money
advice service. The aim of the service is to enable the user to make informed
choices and decisions regarding all aspects of any money related matters.
The desired outcome is that the customer feels in control of their money
instead of their money controlling them.
During the reporting year we delivered 460 face to face sessions and assisted
companies who were making staff redundancies. As well as providing
assistance to clients in other life changing circumstances such as having a
baby, bereavment or retirement issues.
“ ...we are also
an organisation
that cares, an
organisation that
does not judge, an
organisation that
listens...
”
Cases over the years’ are still becoming more complicated, with more issues
being identified. Money Advice Team are often dealing with a range of issues,
not just debt issues. These cases can be very time consuming, as more time
needs to be spent on these cases.
We also assisted 6 clients to make applications under the Mortgage to Rent
scheme.
12
13
Citizens Advice Bureau West Lothian
Annual Report 2011/12
Volunteer Case Studies
Why I am a CAB
Volunteer
I have been a volunteer
with the Citizens Advice
Bureau for over twenty
years. Before I married
I had trained and worked
as a social worker and I
gave up paid employment when I had children. I was
involved with various local community groups but
once all my children were at secondary school I was
looking for something more structured and interesting
to do, still on a voluntary basis. Since I enjoyed
working with people, CAB seemed a logical choice.
I decided to give it a go.
I completed the basic training which involved learning
the principles and codes of practice of the CAB, how
to use their information system (which at that time
was kept in paper file form), the recording system,
interviewing techniques, etc. I then worked as a
frontline adviser for about two years. The range of
queries and problems presented to CAB is vast
and varied. I found it quite difficult to switch quickly
from considering one kind of problem to a very different
one. I began to concentrate more on debt problems
and solutions.
This work involves verifying, checking and assessing
a great deal of financial information. Issues such as
housing, problems with benefits, physical and mental
14
health, and family circumstances have to be taken
into consideration. We explain the actions creditors
must take to legally recover the money owed to them.
We then discuss the client’s options for dealing with
their debts and the consequences of these actions.
Once the client has decided how they wish to proceed,
we give the required assistance to move the process
along. Cases can take some considerable time to
complete, particularly when the client’s circumstances
change. Not every case has an easy solution, nor are
they resolved very quickly which can be frustrating for
both the client and the worker.
Over the years there have been many changes within
the bureau, not only to the information system regarding
the updating of welfare benefits, the law and other
rules and regulations, but also to the widening use of
computers, electronic recording, new premises, new
staff and volunteers, new projects. The CAB service is
forever evolving.
I have always found the staff and other volunteers
helpful and supportive and I still enjoy their company
and the work I am doing. I am afraid they are stuck with
me for a while yet!
Janice McGuire
Adviser
Anthony Holloran
Prior to starting as an advisor
I had never heard much about
the Citizens Advice bureau and
the fantastic work that they do.
However since joining the team
I have been overwhelmed by just
how comprehensive and wide
ranging the services are and how
important an advisors assistance can be to a client.
The volunteers are recruited from every walk of life which is great
as everyone is able to bring their own views and experiences to
the table, when dealing with client matters. It also creates a very
welcoming environment not just for clients but also makes a
fun working environment. I have felt that both the management
team and training given to be excellent.
As a full time student studying at university I have found that
the work and experiences have not only greatly enhanced my
cv but have also exposed me to environments and situations
which I believe would be unmatched anywhere else. I am one
of the fortunate advisors who provides an outreach service at
HMP Addiewell. This experience has greatly opened my eyes to
some of the most vulnerable members within our communities
who are often ignored by our society. I find it highly rewarding
that my support and advice has the potential of changing
people’s lives.
I feel that my time at the bureau has been very enjoyable and
rewarding so far. I would thoroughly recommend volunteering
at CAB to anyone looking to get involved within their community
and develop their skills.
Anthony Holloran
Adviser
Jacky Docherty
I am a qualified solicitor, and
initially volunteered as an
advisor when I lost my job for the
4th time in the credit crunch. The
reason I volunteered was
because wanted to keep using
my legal skills and broaden my
knowledge base. I quickly found
that there were a lot of options available to people that, as a
lawyer, I would not have initially considered. Volunteering has
really helped to broaden my horizons and make me more people
and outcomes focussed.
In addition to maintaining and
enhancing my knowledge
and skills, from a personal
perspective it has changed my
priorities and focus. Having
been unemployed myself and
struggled through the last 4
years, I it really brought home
the difficulties people can
face. Citizen’s Advice Bureau
has given me the tools and
the outlet to be able to use my
skills to help. It has given me
back the confidence in my abilities that the credit crunch had
eroded, and made me feel worthwhile at a time when it seemed
like the world was falling apart. Volunteering helps me, just as
much as (I hope) we help our customers.
Jacky Docherty
Adviser
15
Citizens Advice Bureau West Lothian
Annual Report 2011/12
Client Case Studies
“ Client was very
greatful for the
bureau’s assistance,
and advised us that
our assistance has
helped her to get on
with her life...
”
Helping with debt
Difficult employment situation
Client came to the bureau with £34k worth of debt. She is in receipt of
disability benefits and an occupational pension. Client has recently
undergone treatment for cancer and is currently in remission. She has been
told by her doctor that she will never work again, and will be confined to a
wheelchair in the near future.
Client contacted the bureau as she was unhappy with how her employer was
treating her. She had been told verbally that she was to be redundant.
Client is constantly receiving phone calls and the occasional home visit by
debt collection agencies. These were causing client a great deal of stress,
which was hampering her recovery.
As client’ situation was unlikely to change, and she could not afford to pay
her debts, it was agreed with the client that sequestration was the best
option for her.
The bureau fully explained all the implications involved in sequestration.
Client fully understood all these implications and was happy to proceed
with sequestration.
The bureau completed the sequestration application form on client’
behalf, and submitted the form to The Accountant in Bankruptcy. Clients
sequestration was granted within one week of submission.
Client wasnot asked to pay any contribution towards her sequestration.
Client was very grateful for the bureau’s assistance, and advised us that our
assistance has helped her to get on with her life, reduced her stress and
enabled her to concentrate on her recovery.
She was advised subsequently in writing that this had been a mistake;
however, her job was still under threat due to lack of money to keep her
employed. She did not wish to continue working for her employer. Client was
referred to the bureau’s Employment Rights Advisor(ERA).
The ERA attended a meeting the client had with her to discuss her employment
situation. Client was given the option of leaving work with a lump sum payment
of £12000. ERA calculated client’s redundancy entitlement plus other monies
due which came to £12000 approx. Client was happy to accept this sum, a
compromise agreement was drawn up to bring this matter to a conclusion.
The client was delighted with the outcome as this enabled her to move on
from what had been a difficult situation.
Benefits Assistance
Client came to the bureau with his wife. He had to give up working due to ill
health. He had been turned down for Employment and Support Allowance
due to lack of National Insurance contributions from being self-employed
He was not eligible for income elated ESA as his wife works 17 hours per
week. However, their entitlement to Working Tax Credits stopped for the
same reason. They were extremely concerned about how they were going
to manage.
“ They were extremely
concerened about
how they were going
manage .
”
The bureau looked at the whole household picture and undertook a Benefit
Check. Their son was in receipt of DLA middle rate care, which allowed the
client to claim Carer’s Allowance. This then enabled the couple to claim
Working Tax Credits and some Council Tax Benefit. They are now £124.84
per week better off.
16
17
Citizens Advice Bureau West Lothian
Annual Report 2011/12
Homelessness problem solved
Client came into the bureau to enquire about homelessness.
“
Client was advised
he could register as
homeless; he was
given information
on how to make
a homelessness
application...
”
18
He had been cohabiting with his long-term partner in a house
which she owns. She recently made arrangements to sell the
house, the paperwork for this has gone through, and to buy
another. His partner suffered stroke before they were able to
arrange the purchase of another home. As her property has
been sold he needed to be out of the property by 28th June.
His partner is seriously ill in hospital and will remain there for
the next 20 weeks. She has been given a poor prognosis. Client
wanted to know if he could register as homeless.
Client was advised that he could register as homeless; he was
given information on how to make a homelessness application,
the processes & procedures involved and a template letter that
he could use to make his application. Client was also given
information on the Cyrenians Smartmove scheme which assists
people in obtaining & maintaining private tenancies. A referral
form was completed and emailed to Smartmove. A benefit check
was carried out as the client was on a low income, Client was
advised that he was entitled to Guarantee Pension Credit & would
also be entitled to Council Tax Benefit, Housing Benefit & a 25%
single persons discount on his Council Tax bill when he obtained
a tenancy of his own.
19
Advice
01506 432977
Appointments
01506 431061
Admin
01506 436132
Fax
01506 441986
Opening Hours
Monday
10.00am to 12.30pm
Tuesday
10.00am to 3.30pm
Wednesday
10.00am to 3.30pm
Thursday
10.00am to 3.30pm
Friday
10.00am to 3.30pm
Legal clinic third Tuesday of every month
5.00pm to 7.00pm
West Calder Health Center outreach
1.30pm to 4.30pm - Appointments to be booked
by contacting the health center direct on 01506 874300
DLA/AA Form Completion Service - by appointment only.
Other Specialist appointments by arrangement
Outreach sessions at Ashgrove Health Centre, Blackburn
12.30 to 3.30pm by appointment only
Contact Health Center direct, in person
or by telephoning 01506 654965
Saturday
10.00am to 3.30pm
Citizens Advice Bureau
West Lothian
Suite Seven, Shiel House
Craigshill, Livingston, EH54 5EH

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