Shaping up for the future – building community capacity
Citizens Advice Westminster’s work to help the most vulnerable and needy residents was commended by Karen Buck, MP, who hosted our AGM at the House of Commons on 13 November 2018.
CEO Shirley Springer reported that the organisation had been awarded a new Advice Services contract from Westminster City Council in September which meant that it was now in its 80th year of service to the community.
Presenting the 2017/18 Annual Report and Accounts, the CEO thanked the volunteers, staff and trustees who had helped deliver high quality advice services to local people. “Client survey feedback over the last year had been very positive with 99% of clients saying they would recommend the organisation to family and friends,” she said.
The AGM focussed on the highlights of the year including telephone access, which had increased since October 2016 when the Adviceline partnership with four neighbouring boroughs was introduced. Additionally, Citizens Advice Westminster had been able to increase the facility for online referrals whereby clients and agencies can raise issues on issues such as benefits, housing or debt via the organisation’s website.
“The impact of our work arising from the benefit of our advice is very clear,”explained the CEO.
“We helped clients to improve their ability to deal with their problems in the future. Over the past year we have secured £3 million in financial outcomes, putting money into the pockets of local people so they can improve their daily lives.” Full Annual Report – click here
Guest speaker Matthew Upton, Director of Policy, Citizens Advice commended the fact that Citizens Advice is in a uniquely strong position to influence national policy because of the indisputable front-line evidence it can collect on key issues of household debt, rent and council tax issue, and energy debts. He also referred to other recent campaign successes such as on tackling the Loyalty Penalty on energy, broadband or phone contracts which can often have a greater impact on low income clients.
Digital inclusion was another focus for the future but he felt there was a misconception that digital exclusion was primarily age related.
“There are a number of other vulnerable groups in society who are also excluded, for example those with mental health conditions or people in the deaf community. The lack of digital access means such people are often taken for granted and unable to get the best deals online, for example when switching energy suppliers and, more recently, when applying for UC which is digital by default.”
Dee Conaghan, Chair, led a commemoration of thanks in memory of the late Rosemary Gallagher who had served as a trustee for 25 years and sadly passed away earlier in the year. Rosemary had been an active member of the board and sat on the HR Committee, providing a positive contribution to the organisation during her many years of service.