Agenda item

CAB welfare rights contract – David Andy (Sac.16.06.2023/3)

Minutes:

David Andy, Barnsley Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) provided an update in relation to the welfare rights contract delivered by CAB for the South Area Council.

 

In elaborating on the content of the presentation, Members were advised that the telephone and digital services were available five days a week from 9am to 5pm. On average each client had been assisted 2.5 times through the various channels available and presented an average of 8 issues each. It was explained to Members that CAB advisors were multi-skilled and trained to give initial general advice to all clients. Referrals were then made to specialist advisors and other services within the organisation. It was stated that many clients were unaware of welfare they were entitled to, and work was ongoing to educate residents.

 

During Member discussion, it was queried as to whether Social Return on Investment information was available, and this was agreed to be calculated and provided. IT access and computer competency issues were discussed, including signposting routes to Barnsley Council’s Adult Education Service and Berneslai Homes.

 

Members discussed issues with the national benefits system, including reassessments and delays. It was questioned as to whether CAB raised the most common issues they were assisting with in this area with the DWP. Advice was given that the CAB aims were to provide advice and assistance, but that issues that needed challenging were, such as reporting internally within the CAB organisation. At national-level, CAB had a team that raised these issues with the government and challenged the DWP and other agencies. Evidence was given where this lobbying had been successful, including a case study on organisation having to make reasonable adjustments for those who used British Sign Language as their primary mode of communication. Additional discussion took place on the quickest way out of poverty being through employment, with CAB giving assurance that “better off calculations” took place with clients, as did referrals to organisations who helped get people back into work, such as Reed.

 

Members sought clarity from CAB on what access arrangements were in place for clients who could not make visits into CAB offices due to disability. It was advised that telephone and digital means of problem-solving were used in the first instance, but that home visits would be arranged where required. For safeguarding reasons, home visits were conducted by two people, for example an advisor and a volunteer or partner, such as Age UK or Berneslai Homes. Staffing levels and capacity were discussed, with information given that recruitment was aligned to available funding with the current level of staff comprising 25 paid staff and 10 volunteers. Members were advised that promotion of the drop-in services available were not pushed so to avoid overwhelming staff, with digital and telephone services the focus of marketing campaigns. 

 

Discussion was had on clients presenting with mental health issues and gambling problems. CAB provided anecdotal information that many clients presented without a formal mental health medical diagnosis. but did have symptoms. Several CAB staff were trained as medical first aiders and would assist to the level they could. There was no data available on clients with gambling addiction issues.

 

RESOLVED:-

 

1.    That the update be noted; and

 

2.    That the Social Return on Investment information be provided by CAB; and

 

3.    That promotional literature for the service be provided by CAB to the Area Council Manager for distribution to Members.

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