Rhiannon Stocking-Williams, Chief Executive, Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), Bracknell Forest, and Madeline Diver, Social Policy Adviser, CAB were present at the meeting to discuss the internal restructuring at the CAB in Bracknell and how it was supporting people with welfare changes in Health and Social Care.
There were gaps in need for older people. CAB gave advice on subjects such as debts, housing, employment, and relationships. Some specialist services had been bought in to provide immigration and housing advice. People’s issues were often complex.
Like all services, the CAB was doing its best in the face of funding cuts. The CAB was working with neighbouring CABs to hire a contractor to explore how, together, they could work more effectively and cost efficiently by sharing back-office functions for example,. Savings targets had not been identified as yet, it was primarily about making better use of current resources and extending capacity to front-line services as there were about 25-30 people a week unable to access advice sessions, and CAB Bracknell needed resource to process the 120-130 telephone that were not being answered first time, during September to December 2013, there were some 4,000 telephone callers to the CAB with some people trying between 1 and 10 times before getting through.
It was suggested that the CAB might limit the range of services it offered and focus on specific areas, then build up services over time. There was a triage system in place to identify the greatest need. People met with CAB advisers by appointment only now in Bracknell and drop-ins were no longer used. There was an adviser net and advisers were careful to go up to limits of what they could do. Targeting people was more difficult until an initial interview had been undertaken. In an attempt to manage capacity, the CAB urged members to promote the advice guide on CABs public website which people could be directed to in the first instance http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/about_this_site.htm#h_adviceguide .
It could be more difficult to engage older people sometimes as young people more often looked information up in the internet, and older people were less able to absorb large amounts of information and of recent concern to older people was the “bedroom tax”. Home services had been cut but it was hoped that these could be re-established at some point. Kieth Naylor referenced a previous report to the Board by Madeline Diver about an in-reach pilot which reached out to people in hospitals to give advice before they hit a crisis point, as a good example of preventative practice which had a positive impact on demand for advice and information services.
A new source of demand was people who were separating who needed advice on the financial implications of this and the impact on children, for example, where they would live. Children returning from university sometimes moved in with grandparents in this situation, which had a knock-on effect on, for example, single person council tax for the grandparent if living alone, and caring for older people. People also sought advice on the impact of domestic violence.
The Board asked the CAB for a simple summary report similar to the request made upon Healthwatch Bracknell Forest. Rhiannon confirmed the CAB held large amount of client data but did not have capacity to produce regular monitoring reports as this was not part of the service level agreement with the Council and this should be discussed with the relevant council department. The CAB was not a statutory service but impact on the CAB in terms of demand would need to be considered when organisations were looking at developing services..
Tracey Hedgecox of Age Concern Bracknell Forest confirmed that like the CAB, telephone calls to their service had tripled and that generally more funding and that better signposting was needed, for example, people had approached Age Concern for help completing Blue Badge applications. This would be mentioned to the team dealing with these applications at the Borough Council to look at the issues with the new system for Blue Badges.
(Action: Angela Harris)
Information went out of date quickly in relation to welfare changes in health and social care.