Post by Colin Henderson on Feb 1, 2015 12:49:26 GMT
Seems this local authority has no love left for its CAB and is going out to tender for a new advice service. I wonder what the back story is.
Herefordshire Council announced this week that when the Citizens Advice Bureau grant comes up for review in March, it will be recommended that it is not to be renewed. The funding – which includes a grant of £117,460 and accommodation costing £75,000 a year – forms the backbone of the service’s budget. However, with backdrop of health and social care cuts taking hold in 2015, the council is looking to fold part of the advice service into a new, broader health organisation, overseen by the council.
Helen Coombes, Herefordshire Council’s director for adults and wellbeing, said: “As health and social care reforms begin to take effect, information and advice services will need to be delivered in a different way to traditional advice services. We have to work with our colleagues in health to decide how we can deliver integrated information and advices services for families, individuals and carers at a local level. Herefordshire Citizens Advice Bureau has been fully involved in these discussions and we hope the Bureau will be one of the organisations that expresses an interest in providing this new service.” Ms Coombes added that the council value the work of the CAB – which provides anyone, from cancer-sufferers to young families, quality financial, legal and relationship advice.
If the proposal to stop CAB’s grant is approved by the council’s cabinet, the new service will go out to tender with a view to the new contract beginning in April. In a statement today a council spokesman said that new service will provide broad, comprehensive signposting advice and information that covers all aspects of care and health information for adults across the county. The statement gave changing legislation, increased demand for care and a need to balance a significantly reduced budget as the reasons for the proposed change.
Some background is revealed by this letter from the esteemed Prof Luke Clements, who many readers will know writes THE book on community care law, and who hints at that familiar situation of a local authority refusing to fund those who call them to account when they act illegally:
Herefordshire Council is to axe its funding for the Citizens Advice Bureau using the new duties in the Care Act 2014 as a justification for this decision.
Herefordshire CAB is one of the best performing CABs in the country and operates in a county with no legal aid providers for those needing help on housing, community care, mental health or welfare benefits problems. Herefordshire has many charities providing advice but none is equipped to fill the legal aid gap and take on the council when it is behaving badly. I suppose it is not surprising that the council has used the pretext of new legislation to rid itself of this turbulent independent force. Its attempt to do this last year was only reversed after the Bishop made an impassioned intervention.
I was the special adviser to the parliamentary committee that scrutinised the Bill that became the Care Act and am horrified that it is being used to justify the axing of the grant. There is much in the Care Act that is good, but the cynics have argued that the Act is part of the government’s attack on public services. I had hoped that this was not so, but we are now seeing a Tory council using it as a justification for just such a purpose.
As someone who lives in Hereford, the only public service that I can see thriving here is the food bank (charitable, of course). This is a council that has cut everything except the grass and is now sullying an Act that could have been used to do good. It should be ashamed of itself.
As ever, if anyone can tell us more please do reply. This is the statement and link to the petition now on the CAB's website:
On Friday 16th of January Herefordshire Council formally decided to withdraw the annual grant they provide to support our work from April 2015. This means that from this April we will suffer a major cut in our funding of over £117,000 which may put our services at risk.
We believe that the people of Herefordshire deserve support with many of life’s problems, like losing a job, being discriminated against or losing their home and that the CAB service is the best organisation to help people get the advice they need. If you believe this too, please help us show Herefordshire Council that they’ve made a mistake by withdrawing our funding and ask them to reverse their decision.
Post by Colin Henderson on Jun 14, 2015 13:39:35 GMT
UPDATE: It's now a few months on from our report on the savage cuts to Herefordshire CAB's funding and it seems the consequences are: - The Leominster CAB branch has closed - So have outreaches at Ross-on-Wye, Ledbury, Bromyard and Kington - The local press describe the remaining service in Hereford as "on the brink":
"A funding crisis has raised fears that Herefordshire Citizens Advice Bureau could close down before its landmark 50th anniversary next year.
The organisation, which provides ‘essential’ support for some of the county’s poorest residents, says it will not have a future unless ‘a firm and long-term commitment is made to funding the service’.
The Leominster branch of the CAB closed its doors for good this week, following the withdrawal of services in Ross-on-Wye, Ledbury and Bromyard due to funding cuts earlier this month. The plug has also been pulled on a similar service, the Marches Access Point (MAP) in Kington, which provided community support and training among many other services.
CAB figures suggest that around 2,000 people in the county won’t now receive the help they need while around £2 million will be lost in financial outcomes that would have been otherwise achieved for some of Herefordshire’s poorest people. Denise Shuker, chairman of Herefordshire CAB trustee board, warned: “It is crystal clear that Herefordshire CAB will not be around to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year unless a firm commitment is made to fund this essential service.”
Claire Keetch, HCAB chief executive, said some people cannot physically get out and about to access services in Hereford while others cannot afford transport costs. She added: “We have clients with literacy and numeracy problems for whom seeing someone face to face is what they need rather than navigating emails or even telephone systems.” Mrs Keetch said that for some people, not getting the help they need could mean not being able to put food on the table or being able to put their heating on, with the CAB service both a first port of call and a last resort. “Now our funding has ended we will be one of only a tiny number of CABs not funded by its local authority. Most local authorities are under enormous pressure – I understand that – however the vast majority of local authorities throughout this country are finding in their budget, money to support their local CABs. One of the heart-breaking things is that we know it’s tough now, we know that it’s going to get worse and we firmly believe that the CAB is needed now more than ever to help people hit by austerity cuts.”
As we reported earlier, this funding cut has quite a back story. Since then pressure was put on the Council to relent, including this letter in the local press:
"We are volunteers at Herefordshire Citizens Advice Bureau and we have just heard that there is a strong possibility that the service will be severely curtailed or even close completely in June this year. The reason is that Herefordshire Council has withdrawn its grant.
This money pays for the professional staff who support us, enabling us to provide a high quality and trusted service. We help many of the most vulnerable people in society but we also help other, more capable people who are faced with problems they cannot solve alone. We handle problems with debt, housing, employment and benefits as well as everyday issues such as family and consumer problems. Without this service, most of our clients will have nowhere to go for help and advice and many will be helpless.
The grant is a very small part of the council’s budget and we understand that it is the only council in England to make such a cut. If it considers itself to be a body that works in the interests of its constituents, they should reverse this policy immediately. Remember, you may need this service tomorrow."
WAYNE STINTON, SUSAN MARSDEN, PETER WYLES Herefordshire Citizens Advice Bureau
This lobbying resulted in the local authority to grant £50,000 "transition funding" reported as follows
"Herefordhire Council and Herefordshire Citizens Advice Bureaux (HCAB) have reached agreement on how they can continue to work together beyond a major funding cut.
A joint statement issued today (5 May) confirmed that the on-going HCAB service will not be “as extensive as it has been”.But, after talks on Friday, the council has agreed to release £50,000 in transition funding to HCAB and will continue to provide free space for the service in council offices while both bodies explore “future funding solutions”. The statement also outlines a commitment between both to “work together, and with other agencies” on specific support for clients with welfare benefit issues. By the terms of the agreement, HCAB will lead on this work.
In December, the council confirmed that it was to cut the funding support it offered to HCAB – a £117,460 grant and accommodation costing £75,000 a year – in favour of its own information advice model, the contract for which was awarded to Services for Independent Living (SIL) charity this week.
The council’s contract with HCAB ended on March 31. A month earlier, full council had voted through an amendment to the 2015-16 budget calling for £50,000 of transition funding to be channelled from the council’s reserves to HCAB. HCAB took fears of bureau closures in Leominster, Bromyard, Ledbury and Ross-on-Wye into Friday’s talks and drop-in hours in Hereford that could come down to three mornings a week. In the last year the bureau handled over 6,000 cases locally, providing financial benefit of nearly £4 million to clients – many of whom were in dire need.
Faced with service reductions and staff redundancies, CAB trustees sought to secure some level of service for the next twelve months whilst exploring alternative options, recognising that unless “significant” new funding was found the general advice service would remain at risk after that period.
SIL has a three-year contract from the council to provide “information, advice and signposting” in line with the requirements of the Care Act to cover all activities and services that assist towards independent living - not just those provided by the council. A new SIL “hub” in Hereford city centre is expected to be up and running by the summer."
But as with the ASTF the question no-one can answer is transition to what? Fresh air? There is no other core funding around.
The chair of Trustees has responded by saying "The £50,000 approved by full council in February is much welcomed, but this is not a long-term solution to funding CAB services. The organisation is pleased to be continuing to talk to the council about future opportunities. However, it needs to be crystal clear that Herefordshire CAB will not be around to celebrate its 50-year anniversary next year, unless a firm and long-term commitment is made to funding this essential service."
"For every advice session our waiting room is filled with people, many desperate for help, and for whom the CAB is the final safety net. Access to high quality, trusted legal advice is not a luxury but an integral part of a decent, fair and equitable society and we are really very concerned that the lives of very many people in this county will be made worse because they are unable to access the advice they need."
And this from their website:
Help prevent the loss of free advice in Herefordshire
The Citizens Advice Service in Herefordshire has been providing an essential service in Herefordshire since 1966. For over 49 years our team of dedicated and highly skilled volunteers and staff have made a real difference to the lives of tens of thousands of local people. Last year Herefordshire CAB helped local people with nearly 15,000 advice problems by helping them to: • Increase their incomes • Resolve problems at work and keep their jobs • Avoid losing their homes • Getting their finances under control In total, we helped our clients to better their circumstances by a combined £4.3 million.
Every £1 invested in the CAB means: • at least £2.13 in savings to the local council, the NHS and other official agencies • at least £11.55 in wider economic and social benefits to the community
Despite all this, Herefordshire CAB will have to close on 24 June 2016 because of a lack of funding. Even though we’ve been here for the people of Herefordshire for over 49 years, without your help we won’t make it to our 50th birthday and Herefordshire will be the only county in England without free advice from a local Citizens Advice.
We are urging local people like you to show their support for investing in advice, protecting access to justice and ensuring that advice is always available – whoever you are; whatever the problem.
well greyling stopped cab going to esa appeals now they attacking cab once again taking away the help peasants had through this cab one wonders are they now going to say there isnt any money for helping out jeff3
My sympathies to both the people of Herefordshire and to the volunteers and staff at the bureau.
Regrettably the same is happening at Citizens Advice Slough. We will be lucky if we make it to 31st March 16. From then, the 250,000+ popn of Slough will have no CAB service.
Still, I take heart that in the tendering exercise, from the commissioners viewpoint, they ticked all the boxes. So thats allright then. What they are replacing us with is cheaper. No apparent plan for delivery of the service, CHEAP, much narrower in focus, CHEAP, untested on any comparable scale, limited if any trained specialist human resources, no back up comparable to CAB, no mention of training of deliverers/ accountability for what is delivered.....but CHEAP (did I mention that already?). Looks like the service will be signposing only. Fat lot of good when the client has had their phone disconnect, doesnt have the busfare, is vulnerable, doesnt understand English etc etc..
Never mind that Slough has one of the highest levels of multi-ethnic populations in the UK where the understanding of English - and especially the understanding of some of our byzantine bureaucracies English - is a challenge for those for whom English IS their primary language.
Never mind that for the £180k we received we prevented over £2m in homelessness costs; nor the fact that we dealt with over 9000 client issues in 2015 alone. Not a bad return on investment, one would have thought.
We have seen increasing levels of:
employer abuse (less than minimum wage being paid/ non payment of wages, cavalier attitudes to employment law esp now fees are involved) particulalry affecting clients who dont have english as a first language landlord abuse - multiple occupation, unfit housing, more demand than supply even before the bedroom tax - we are one of the favoured localities for London councils clearing housing benefit/homelessness clients. Error rates by DWP/HMRC leading to unnecessary debts and distress. Rushes to judgement on council tax - demanding the full year CT bills from people who struggle to may the monthly payments.
You all know the scene. These problems require a knowledge of the system and advocacy. Signposting just doesn't cut it.
What is even more frustrating is the short-termism of the whole thing leading to unnecessary distress. It will cost more money that it saves, the day after tomorrow. In a couple of years, some bright spark on the council will have a brainwave 'We could do with a Citizens Advice Bureau'. Too late. What they already have - 40 vols (advisers and specialists), 6.5 fte specialist staff will be scattered to the wind. (Many to CABs outside the area)
We will fight a rearguard action to see if we can get some independent money to keep some services running - but of course without the core LA funding, it's difficult to get people to match it.
I do so hope that the purchasing people who so successfully ticked their boxes and feel self-satisfied, urgently need some of the services that will be gone after March ....... vickyg :-(
Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Feb 7, 2016 21:10:10 GMT
Your news is truly dreadful Vicky and more than alarming in so many ways.
On the welfare reform front, I've carried out a good few forecasts recently following the 'Emergency' Summer Budget of 2015, the Autumn statement of 2015 and many other hideous statutory instruments and the dreaded 'welfare reform and work bill'.
Any prudent council ' LA should look beyond simple, 'cost effective' remedies. The scope for an enormous hike in the workload with ramped up PIP/ESA assessments together with services being inundated with Universal Credit problems when it eventually gets going (it's yet to get on the run way, let alone take off!) is beyond enormous. The simple, stark, fact is the government's reforms have barely moved in fiscal turns. With all the emphasis now on achieving savings not achieved to date, the scope for casework at intermediate level and complex enquires on top of these demands the right blend of staff to deal with the full range.
Cheap remedies won't work, leaving problems unsolved still leaves problems, sadly you are probably right that by the time they realise the need, the necessary staff will have moved on.
I really hope for a turn around with your CAB (and others) and a bit of plain common sense against the ludicrous antics of our current government and their absurd reforms.
Sadly, our council is Labour and the irony is that in Windsor and Maidenhead (Conservative) the bureau gets a direct grant - albeit smaller than Slough's, but they have a quarter of our traffic - with none of this tendering nonsense.
Slough got hit with a £38m savings requirement so they have had to hit the default 'statutory requirement' button and are only funding services required by the Health & Social Care Act. But they are choosing a narrow definition. Homelessness, mental health issues CAUSED by the stress people are under with nowhere to turn, does not appear to have come into their thinking.
More annoying, and a salutory lesson for other CAS whose LA's undertake commissioning is that our bureaux was excluded from making a direct bid because apparently you had to have a turnover of £2m! The tender was also measured on 'outcomes', not on how they were expected to be achieved. So we partnered under the local Age Concern (we have complementary services) who also didnt get it (and are also now cutting back massively) , and P3 et al who were also unsuccessful. Although we offered to partner with the consortium that was to eventually go on to win the bid, the offer was not accepted. So the tender was in fact was awarded to a non legal entity (who also didnt have the requisite turnover); who didnt have a track record of delivering the range of services; and who will now control the budget for all voluntary sector services in the area concerned with Health & Social Care. We didnt have £70k for a judicial review (and in any case there would be no guarantee that the Council would have re-run).
Having had almost 40 years in corporate life before becoming a CAB volunteer, I have to say that this bureau has been a delight and a privilege to work with and in. Its an incredible team, the like of which I have seldom seen in business. Totally focussed on the needs of the clients, constantly adapting to service those needs in the most user friendly way and never self satisfied about the quality of the service delivered. Incredible teamwork from a group of volunteers and staff who closely represent the town's demographics. But - because of that focus - not good at self promotion or self publicity within the stakeholders.
There are lots of lessons in this : 1) Make sure your primary sponsors really understand what you do by constantly being 'in their faces' about features and benefits 2) ensure you have trustees who are up to being an assertive board and have the skills of a quasi corporate board and that they are prepared to use them to ensure the continuance of funding 3) Expand your funding base. No sane company would have 60% of its funding from one source. Whilst our CEO has done a fabulous job of match funding in the past (relative to many other bureaux) you have to have what is seen to be a secure £££ base in order to attract the rest. I dont know if councils are thinking that the magic money tree will replace their contribution, or whether actually, their officers just dont really care. Poverty, hardship and incompetent bureaucracies are things that users of Advice / advocacy services obviously bring upon themselves. Certainly seems to fit with the government narrative. 4) ensure the local press and institutions (churches, gurdwara, clinical commissioning groups, businesses, schools etc) are well informed of the 'cost' of losing local advocacy. 4) have a strong team of volunteers, staff & supporters who are prepared to put in extra time on such occasions, to keep the show on the road.
All these are tricky with limited resources and budgets when the main focus has to be on the clients. I am sure there are lots of others lessons that Hertfordshire, Newcastle etc etc can add into this mix.
One thing I will repeat. Volunteering for Slough CAB has been a pleasure, a delight and a privilege. I would recommend to anyone who reads this blog to do so with your local bureau, whilst you can. The training is superb, the back-up amazing and the clients are (in the main!) delightful and very humbling.
I'll let you know if an as yet unknown philanthopist steps in to keep us afloat!.
I think there may be more activity in the coming days. The volunteers certainly want to have a say.
CAB is like wallpaper. Its always there and taken for granted until one day you notice its not; or like insurance. We are a 'distress use', and unless you have needed us, the significance of what is lost will not occur to people. The soothing words of a council trying to pretend that what has replaced CAB is an equivalent, will of course be lost on the majority.
Good news about Newcastle, so there is always hope.