Welcome to our Annual Review, which highlights the impact and learning of your local Citizens Advice service for the financial year 2015/16.
We continue to strive towards our vision of a society where everyone can express and realise their rights, where responsibilities are understood and acted on by both individuals and organisations. Where decisions are taken with the needs of the most vulnerable in our society in mind, and where services are accessible and responsive to those who need them.
The backbone of our services is advice, we have continued to increase the number of people that we help year-on-year resulting in a significant increase in the income of our local communities.
A society where everyone can express and realise their rights, where responsibilities are understood and acted on by both individuals and organisations, where decisions are taken with the needs of the most vulnerable in our society in mind, and where services are accessible and responsive to those who need them.
We deliver this mission by:
Whilst adhering to the four Citizens Advice principles on which the service was founded; offering advice that is:
Our Vision, Mission and Values underpin our Business and Development Plan 2016-19.
Our objectives have been designed to meet the needs of the local community, as well as supporting the achievement of the national Citizens Advice strategic aims, which are:
Our objectives also support the “Stand up for Equality” objectives, which are:
Southwark is a borough of contrasts – from gentrified and affluent areas, to some of the most deprived parts of the capital, and indeed the country. The local population represents the full spectrum of diversity, and there is an active voluntary and community sector. Below are some of the key statistics from the 2011 Census, which give a flavour of the demographic mix in the borough.
There are many challenges in the borough that advice services play a part in resolving.
Southwark is also a borough that shows positive improvements in many measures.
Economic conditions flowing from the recession and on-going period of austerity remain challenging for our clients and the communities of Southwark, as well as for organisations such as ourselves and those we work in partnership with.
The passing of the Legal Aid and Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act removed many areas from the scope of legal aid provision, and moves some of the social welfare law areas that remain into national telephone helplines or other non-local services, reducing yet further the amount of money, and therefore services, available to Southwark residents. Advice services in Southwark are due to be re-commissioned in 2017, and we will be working to ensure the needs of communities are considered as part of the new commissioning process.
Public policy changes, in particular around welfare reform, have lead to a growth in demand for advice and support services. The 2011 Census shows that the population of Southwark has risen by over 12% since 2001– this increase, when combined with the challenges facing vulnerable communities, indicates that we can expect high levels of demand for our services in the coming years.
In addition to our generalist advice services we also provide a broad range of specialist services in response to the needs of our local communities.
We have a full time adviser, funded by City Bridge Trust, providing casework and representation at tribunals for local people with complex welfare benefit issues.
Following the Universal Credit pilot as part of our Money Savvy Southwark project, we secured a contract for delivering personal budgeting and digital inclusion support across Southwark, Lambeth and Lewisham - now running in five Job Centres across the area.
Priority debts, such as rent arrears and council tax arrears, account for the largest number of problems. This service is funded mainly by the Toynbee Hall Capitalise project, with support from London and Quadrant Housing Association and Thames Water.
Working in partnership with Southwark Council we provide evening clinics for people with rent and council tax arrears, supported by teams of pro bono solicitors from DLA Piper and Winkworth Sherwood.
We also have funding from London Southbank University to provide debt advice for their students.
This five year Big Lottery funded financial education project aimed at people living in social housing, provides group and one-toone sessions on key areas such as the cost of credit and prioritising housing costs.Over 2,400 people supported by welfare reform events
We run monthly welfare reform events aimed at reaching people who have been affected by changes such as the ‘bedroom tax’ who may be struggling and in rent arrears.Over 4,400 people supported in first 3 years
Southwark Council provide funding for a full time worker, with an additional worker as the service was expanded part way through the year with additional funding from the Homeowners Council. The service delivers advice and casework with issues such as managing service charges and major works.Over 333 leaseholders helped
We provide a team of volunteers to help people to register and bid for housing on the Southwark online system.
There is a serious capacity issue in London following the withdrawal of legal aid for most immigration advice. Our generalist advice service provides basic advice with our full time specialist worker, funded by Trust for London, providing more specific advice.
Working with volunteer solicitors we are able to offer two appointment based advice sessions each month, with one of these sessions being for women only. We have also developed a Mackenzie friend service, with trained volunteers supporting people attending court in family law cases.
Formed to increase access to advice and information, especially for more disadvantaged people, by advice agencies in the borough working more closely. Funding from Big Lottery starting in 2009, for our coordination of the network, concluded this year - but we continue to coordinate the service.
We are one of five Citizens Advice services in the country to lead on developing this area, supporting other services to build partnerships to tackle issues of consumer detriment, such as the cost of pre-payment meters and problems faced by private tenants.
Citizens Advice nationally has a contract with the Treasury to provided face-to-face information and guidance for people approaching retirement and affected by the changes that came into force in April 2015. We are one of 50 local Citizens Advice services to be funded to deliver this service on the ground.
Funded by Southwark Council this service provides information and advice through face-to-face, telephone, and online support to all carers in Southwark.
Funded by Southwark Council we act as a ‘critical friend’ on equalities and human rights issues through coordinating an open forum, reviewing policies and facilitating consultations and events.
From November 2015 we have been able to expand our Digital Team, bringing us to five Assessors supervised by an experienced Advice Supervisor providing a telephone gateway and email service.
We have also increased the opening times of our telephone service from 15 hours per week to 35.5 hours.“We know some people struggle to access advice services, so we’re proud of the increased reach we now have for Southwark’s residents through opening up new digital channels for them to contact us and get the help they need”
Starting in October 2015, this new 3-year contract from Southwark Council enables us to ensure carers across the borough get the best information and advice to support their caring role.Over 660 carers helped this year
Laura is a married mother, with 3 children aged 15, 10 and 8. She is a full-time carer for her husband James who has a rare condition that requires frequent hospitalisation and surgery. His condition often renders him bedbound for weeks at a time.
In addition, her 10-year-old son Mathew has a diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) which has become so severe that he has not been able to attend school for the last 6 months. Laura was signposted to the carers advice service by her GP, concerned the stress of her caring responsibilities was impacting on her depression and arthritis.
Laura was not sure what she hoped to get from the carers service, but mentioned she was struggling to cope as a carer. Mathew’s social worker had made a request for a carer’s assessment months ago but this had not been acted on.
Mathew’s treatment plan for his OCD required Laura to intensively support him at home in preparation for returning to school. She was worried that recently she had not been able to dedicate as much time to him as her husband required round-the-clock care.
We advised Laura about carers assessments and social care needs assessments and wrote a referral to Southwark’s Adult Social Care department setting out the family’s eligible needs and what they hoped to get from the process. James was offered support through Southwark’s re-ablement service and the family was provided funds for a cleaner so Laura would have more time to spend with her children.
We also identified that Mathew was eligible for Disability Living Allowance. Due to her busy schedule and childcare responsibilities we completed the application on her behalf over the phone. As a resulted the family received additional benefits of £189 per week.
We negotiated a freeze on the interest of Laura’s debts of over £3,000 and reduced her repayments from £120 to £30 per month. We are continuing to support Laura, helping her apply for Mathew’s Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) and informing her about the different advocacy organisations in Southwark specialising in EHCPs.
We have expanded the range of our energy advice services, providing support face-to-face, over the telephone, through home visit and group sessions.
We have secured funding for an Energy Champion, who coordinates our advice delivery and shares best practice across energy advice providers.
We know that 4 out of 5 people living with cancer are on average £570 a mouth worse off as a result of their diagnosis [source]
With funding from Macmillan Cancer Support and Dimbleby Cancer Care & Palliative Care we have been able to work directly with cancer patients at King’s College, Guy’s and St Thomas’, Queen Elizabeth and Lewisham hospitals.