New chair for Citizens Advice Westminster’s Trustee Board
Dee Conaghan has been appointed as the new Chair of Citizens Advice Westminster and took over from Alan Gorringe at the AGM on 16 November. Alan has served an impressive nine years as Chair and was congratulated by the meeting for his commitment and valuable contribution to the Westminster bureau.
Dee has had a long relationship with Citizens Advice for over 30 years. Starting out as a volunteer adviser in Stroud in the 1980’s, she then took on various Citizens Advice paid jobs including welfare rights worker, debt case worker, trainer and service manager. She then branched out to work for a few other charities and other organisations delivering counselling, advocacy and mediation services. Not surprisingly, when her daughter heard she had been appointed chair of the trustee board, she quipped: “Does that mean you have done all the jobs at Citizens Advice now?”
Dee explains: “I enjoyed other training but never forgot my first training from the Citizens Advice, and the way we work with our clients and our policies stayed with me. In 2007 I returned to retrain as a volunteer adviser with Citizens Advice Westminster based in Pimlico. I really enjoyed myself and it was a very happy time working with the dedicated and skilled team of volunteers and staff. Some of those friendly faces I still see here. I stayed as an adviser for five years leaving in 2012.
“I was back to be a member of the trustee board the next year, working alongside an engaged, talented group of fellow trustees led by a great chairman and with the (best) most professional and experienced Chief Officer. I have been pleased to chair the service delivery sub-committee for the last 3 years.
“Not only is the Westminster bureau important to me, so is the Citizens Advice national movement and I am a member of its members and standards committee and the national trustee development group.
“I attended the Citizens Advice AGM and conference in Manchester on 13-14 November. Its theme was ‘the future of advice’ and there was much to provoke thought and inspire. We wrestled with such problems as: who will we help in the future and how will we meet demand? How will the changes in technology impact on us and our clients? How do we address digitalisation with our clients who are excluded? The problems of low income families and of vulnerable clients being passed around ‘like hot potatoes’ from one organisation to another. How can we ensure that we are sustainable? Questions / discussions but no easy answers yet…such issues will, I’m sure, engage us here in Westminster over the next few years.
“At the end of the conference we watched a short film made up of a collage of politicians (including Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions) in the House of Commons and in select committees, plus the large number of press comments, all quoting Citizens Advice’s research into the problems that our clients are facing with the Universal Credit roll out. Research that our Westminster bureau has, of course, contributed to.
“The conference seemed to hold its breath and watch spell bound as again and again our words, our call to ‘pause the roll out’ were repeated on the screen and our charity’s name cited. It was a real ‘goose bump’ moment as we saw the power that Citizens Advice can exert on behalf of our clients with the data that you/ we have contributed.
” I look forward to working with you over the next three years.”