CITIZENS ADVICE BUREAU - UPDATE
To consider the report and update.
Hilary Hall, Director of Adults, Health and Commissioning, introduced the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) item and Bill Feeney, Interim CEO of CAB Maidenhead.
Bill Feeney gave a presentation to the Panel. (Presentation attached).
Councillor Bowden asked what the provision was for residents in Windsor, Datchet and the southern parts of the borough and was informed by Bill Feeney that anyone from the local authority could ask for advice and support. There was currently a big technical change taking place nationally called Single Queue. This would enable everyone to join a single queue so that if your local CAB could not answer, then another team would respond to offer support. Councillor Bowden asked if there was a premise in Windsor where face to face meeting could take place and was informed that currently no actual meetings were taking place. Once lockdown had lifted, outreach facilities would reopen. This service was offered at a GP surgery in Dedworth, Windsor library and a home service.
Councillor Price asked what the current waiting list was and was this continuing to increase? Bill Feeney responded that CAB were dealing with all enquiries at present with no backlog. There was a plan to open the offices in a Covid safe way but currently they were also dealing with the merge with Bracknell CAB.
Councillor Price asked if many of the services offered by CAB were to other organisations such as RBWM, Relate, Job Centre, Shelter and many more. Did CAB find that they were mainly sighposting? Bill Feeney informed the Panel that there were some in-house experts. The volunteers had vast amount of knowledge and many volunteers had been with CAB for over thirty years.
Councillor Price asked about the funding and where it came from. Bill Feeney informed the Panel that the funding had stopped CAB from expanding. Funding had been received from the borough as a grant and from other organisations such as NHS and DWP. CAB had also received smaller grants for other projects. CAB had lost many volunteers in the first lockdown. CAB were currently recruiting, and all raining was carried out online.
Councillor Del Campo Thanked Bill Feeney and the CAB team and asked four questions on how CAB had seen ages because of Covid 19. Councillor Del campo asked what were the current risks that CAB faced. Bill Feeney responded that the biggest risk at present was the merger and there were currently a lot of change management programs underway. The understanding of the service implementation plan and which parts of two different offices could be brought together quickly so that more people could be reached. Another risk was what the baseline service delivery would look like as of 1st April. The calls and emails were coming in thick and fast and there were not enough resources to work full time.
Councillor Del campo was interested in seeing the numbers of cases that had been dealt with and the breakdown compared to the year before. This could be discussed offline. It would be interesting to see the impact of Covid 19 and finally apart from the obvious of taking services online, what were the differences that a resident might notice compared to a few years ago.
Councillor G Jones asked about the government ending the suspension to eviction at some point, what would the implications be? Bill Feeney was not aware of the date, but it was very similar to the furlough scheme. Whilst these schemes were great to have in the short term, they continued to add pressure and then when the schemes were not extended, the evictions would be live, and people would need to have plans in place. There had been an increase in people asking the questions of what they should do and how quickly, which cannot be answered. Clarity from government was required soon. Councillor G Jones asked if there were any things that had been learnt during lockdown that would now be used going forward? Bill Feeney responded that being able to support many volunteers remotely, finding out their biggest concerns and what tools could be provided to assist.
Councillor Bhangra thanked Bill Feeney and his team. Councillor Bhangra asked about the upsurge and demand on services since the pandemic and also what was the single biggest issue that the CAB had had to deal with. Bill Feeney responded that there had absolutely been an upsurge in demand and with the changes of closing the offices and still continuing to offer the services, it was a difficult time. Some of the biggest issues that had increased were information on universal credit, benefits, tax credits and also housing.
Councillor Hilton commented that he was more familiar with Bracknell CAB and had known of an exceptional invaluable pilot that had been run with having a volunteer at a GP surgery to deal with non-medical issues. This had stopped during lockdown but Councillor Hilton had hoped that this would be an offering with the new merged CAB that would be of great value. Bill Feeney confirmed that both Bracknell and Maidenhead, both had outreach facilities that would restart as soon as lockdown was lifted.
Councillor Rayner thanked Bill Feeney for the presentation and commented that she really appreciated the work of CAB in assisting residents. Councillor Rayner asked if CAB had found that their clients were suffering from long Covid and was this something that CAB would have to consider going forward? Bill Feeney commented that he would have to look into that and report back to Councillor Rayner.
The Chairman thanked Bill Feeney.
- Citizens Advice Update Report, item 144. PDF 140 KB
- CAMW presentation Communities Overview and scrutiny panel Mar 21, item 144. PDF 603 KB