Citizens Advice Peterborough Newsletter
Research and Campaigns
Specialist Advice Team
Training and Volunteer Recruitment
Peterborough Community Assistance Scheme
|Happy New Year! Over the past year Citizens Advice Peterborough has developed strong links with our partner agencies and so we hope that you find this briefing informative and useful. We want to tell you all about our successes over the last year starting in the area of Research and Campaigns.|
|Research and Campaigns is one of the twin aims of our service. It aims to improve the policies and practices that affect people's lives.
As a service we have a huge amount of insight and data about the problems our clients and their wider communities face. Through research and campaigns, we use this insight to:
- Help us research issues further
- Influence decision makers to change policies and practices
- Campaign to get decision makers to change policies and practices.
In 2016, we have been able to:
- Run 10 different campaigns / research projects
- Engage with over 65,000 people locally
- Have an impact on 8 policy changes and ways of working
- Worked to stop letting agent fees
- Researched the impact of the welfare reform on working families
- Carried out research into issues many face when accessing a basic bank account
- Raised awareness of mental health for students
- Highlighted issues locally around Scams, Energy Saving, and financial Abuse
We also ran a “Top-Tips” competition, where our winner Lee shared an amazing energy saving tip, and won £100 off his next fuel bill. Well done Lee.
Looking a headed we have big 'Research and Campaign' plans for 2017, including Debt Awareness, and Make Energy Better campaigns, and more work on Renters Rights.
For now, we just wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone who has helped and supported this work throughout 2016.
|Diana Stone, General Advice and Volunteer Manager
Firstly I would like to say a big thank you to the team for their fantastic work and commitment over the last year. Without you our clients would struggle to solve their problems.
I was appointed in April 2016 as the General Advice and Volunteers Manager. I have worked for Citizens Advice, at local level, for 18 years, starting as a volunteer adviser. I appreciate the challenges and range of issues that volunteers are required to deal with.
Citizens Advice Peterborough (CAP) is always looking at improving the service provided to clients, therefore, in September 2016 our Client Services Supervisor joined the team, to help make the clients journey from arriving to leaving run smoothly and to ensure that they have access to the correct person in a timely manner.
The demand of the service is increasing year on year and the issues our clients are facing are becoming more complex this could be due to changes in Welfare Benefit, Immigration and Housing legislation. The number of client who received free advice in the last calendar year was 7300, which equate to a monetary outcome of £6,271,113. This is income that not only elevate that client financially but can potential be put back into the community, e.g. increased spending.
Nationally there is an increase in homelessness and affordability of housing, Peterborough is not immune to this as there has been an increase in the number of clients facing homelessness and are facing difficulties finding adequate housing. To try to elevate this CAP has employed a Homelessness Prevention Officer.
Looking ahead to next year, Universal Credit will be fully rolled out and there will be more reduction in public spending, therefore, we have to be ready to face these new challenges, that is why we are working hard to increase our volunteer numbers so that we will be able to deliver an efficient service to our clients.
|Pension Wise Information for partners and other agencies
Citizens Advice Peterborough reports numbers of clients seen and users who have had their needs and expectations met in 2016. Expert ongoing service covering Peterborough, Ely, Wisbech, Huntingdon and Cambridge to meet demand.
Citizens Advice Peterborough in association with Pension Wise is encouraging people over 50, with a defined contribution pension in Cambridgeshire to get to grips with their pension.
Keith Jones, Chief Executive Officer at Citizens Advice Peterborough said:
‘The world of pensions can be confusing. People can be put off by the numbers, the terminology, and the calculations involved. Pension Wise is a free service which is here to help people make sense of their options. We offer face to face appointments across the county which are tailored to each individual, depending on their wants and needs for retirement’.
In free 45 minute sessions, specialist guidance staff from Pension Wise help people to understand their pension options in clear, easy to understand language. The guidance also covers any implications choices have on people’s tax or benefits as well as warning signs of scams and where they can get further support.
All appointments are tailored to the individual, taking into account the value of their pension pot and their plans for retirement.
Our Pension Wise team are also happy to come and present about how Pension Wise can help you, your teams and clients with their pension queries.
To book a face to face Pension Wise appointment or for further information on our services please call 01733 887922.
|Since our last update on training we have trained another 4 advisers for our face to face service and 3 digital assessors to help people on the phone and by email. We currently have another 4 trainee advisers half way through their training and studying diligently with the hope that they may be on rota at the beginning of the New Year. Working with our partner agency Cambs Deaf Association, we have another trainee BSL adviser who will also be on rota soon. And keeping our programme of training rolling, we have a new group of trainees who will begin their training in January.
One of the most exciting things to happen in learning and development at CAP was being involved in the national pilot for a new social learning platform. Two of our new trainee advisers were our guinea pigs and their induction was completed using the new platform. There were some teething problems such as video links not working and some activities not being accessible to tablets, but it was certainly something that with some tweaks could become a great tool to enhance individual learning. While there are many advantages to face to face training, for example the opportunity to apply learning practically and to share experiences, social learning also has its benefits. It introduces more flexibility as learners can choose where and when and at what pace they learn. It also allows them to communicate with others via “communities” - groups of people learning the same content. The platform functions a lot like other social networking websites. Learners can share, like and comment on content and also upload their own if they want to contribute something new. For trainers, it provides an easy way to track learning and to give feedback immediately to the learner. The designers and national Citizens Advice are continuing to improve the platform following comments and suggestions from those involved with the pilot and we are now waiting to be let loose on the final version.
We have said goodbye to some of our volunteers who have moved on to employment or further studying or retired from their post-retirement role. As always we thank them enormously for all the service they have given to us. Of course when volunteers leave we always need to replace them, so if you or any of your family or friends are looking to give something back to your community, then download an application form from our website and apply now. Training for all the roles is free, sociable and enjoyable.
|Adviceline was particularly busy last year, with our call demand averaging over 750 calls a month - peaking at over 900 calls in September 2016. Due to the ever increasing demand, we have worked hard to develop more channels that clients can use to access the Citizens Advice service.
In response to the high volume of calls, we adopted a new advice framework for Adviceline last year, and this is going well meaning we are able to engage with more clients. This framework involves an initial check at the start of each call; ensuring clients are getting the most appropriate assistance as soon as possible. As a result, we have seen a 30% increase in the number of calls we are able to answer over the past year.
The email facility is becoming more popular with local residents, as we have seen the number of emails being received more than double over the year. This is a valuable service as it is often easier for clients to access, and they can get assistance if they are unable to call in during office hours. This can be accessed through our website at https://www.citapeterborough.org.uk/.
The Digital Advice Team also answer emails and webchats from through www.citizensadvice.org.uk, meaning CAP is now more accessible to Peterborough residents.
To help with the increased demand, we also recruited 3 more Digital Advice volunteers who recently completed their training and are now live on Adviceline, email and Webchat. This has greatly improved our capacity to continue to meet our clients’ needs.
▲ Chart shows the number of clients the Digital Advice Service assisted during the last 12 months
|PCAS continues to support people facing hardship and requiring urgent assistance. So far in 2016/17, we've had 1,946 client visits under the scheme. In addition to meeting basic needs as quickly as possible through issuing vouchers for domestic appliances, food, and energy top ups we have been providing support and advice to help clients avoid similar problems in the future, we often found that access to information, advice and guidance was what was really needed to find the best solution to the problem.
Clients who present in need of PCAS support will be seen by a qualified advice worker who will look at all factors of the client’s situation and support them to solve their problem, as well as empowering clients to be able to solve future problems on their own.
Peterborough Community Assistance Scheme Plus has been offering budgeting advice and income maximisation for Universal Credit claimants to aid the transition to monthly payments, with over 380 clients being advised in the year to date. Although we're only just beginning to see the impact of Universal Credit's introduction in Peterborough, this will be one of our key areas of advice in 2017 as Universal Credit is extended.
The voucher scheme has been able to respond well to the potential emergencies resulting from waiting days and monthly Universal Credit payments by allowing for greater discretion in the issuing of multiple food vouchers to Universal Credit claimants in crisis. Continued close working with our partner agencies in the scheme; Care Zone, Peterborough Foodbank, WEEE Reuse and the Peterborough Rainbow Credit Union; will ensure that the scheme remains responsive to the changing needs of clients through the coming year.
So far this financial year, PCAS clients have been supported to achieve financial outcomes in excess of £2 million pounds as well as many other outcomes such as empowering the client to take the next step to resolve their problem.
There continues to be a high demand for money advice. Since April, we have seen over 600 clients and have dealt with over £2 million of debts. This year has seen a new on-line bankruptcy application which has made the process easier and quicker for clients and feedback from those who have used the on-line service is positive.
It is worrying that a high proportion of the people we advise about debt are unable to maintain essential expenditure due to low and/or instable income. We are seeing more people with priority debts such as rent arrears and council tax arrears than ever before.
We have also begun to see the effect of the new benefit cap, which came into force in November. This will mean that some families will see benefits cut by a significant amount. Some clients who were only just making ends meet will be plunged into poverty, especially those with larger families. This is likely to increase the number of clients seeking help with rent arrears, re-possessions and evictions.
Anyone who has walked through the city centre of Peterborough knows that homelessness is a serious problem for the city and its people. The threat of homelessness does not cease during the winter months; indeed many evictions are scheduled for December and families at risk face the prospect of a cold, unhappy Christmas.
We are therefore delighted to welcome Roksana Papazova to the new position of Homelessness Prevention Officer. Roxy has previously helped Citizens Advice Peterborough as a volunteer generalist adviser, and she has now received specialist training in homelessness prevention from Shelter. She has been helping clients to ensure they are able to keep a roof over their heads since November.
The position will complement and increase the effectiveness of the work already carried out by the specialist money advice team.
|Over the last seven months....
- We have attended and highlighted over 30 public engagement events.
- We have reached out to Peterborough’s Slovakian and Lithuanian communities by attending their embassy services events.
- We have supported and attended the Black History celebration events
- We have made the public aware of over 35 consultations and surveys through our Enews and social media.
- We have trained other local Healthwatchs in prisoner engagement, allowing them to emulate the success of our award winning prisoner engagement project.
- We have visited 3 care homes to gather patient views about the services they are receiving and make recommendations to the homes, as well as helping Peterborough City Hospital to assess their care environment and how easy it is for patients to access their information.
- We trained local Brownies Group to become Dementia Friends
Local people can access new support facilities for people living with and beyond cancer. The service is based at Peterborough City Hospital. The service was developed in response to recommendations and evidence from Healthwatch Peterborough after patient feedback showed a lack of a holistic cancer wellbeing service. We are delighted to see it come to fruition and continue to talk to patients and make ongoing recommendations.
Engagement with local communities
Healthwatch Peterborough have attended nearly 50 events in the last seven months trying to reach as many local people as possible, including those seldom heard and hard to reach, young people, diverse communities and those with Learning Difficulties to name a few.
Hospital Trusts Merger
The trusts running and Peterborough and Stamford hospitals and Hinchingbrooke hospital are planning to merge in 2017. Throughout 2016 we have been supporting their engagement efforts, promoting events where they seek public feedback and facilitating two events of our own. We have helped to ensure that public concerns are listened to as the trusts move forward.
Welcoming a new Director
We are delighted to welcome Nik Patten to our Board of Directors. Nik brings to the table a career in hospital surveying and management, and has served as Project Director for the National Patients’ Access Team and Chief Executive of Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.