Bright future for the partnership of Stratford’s Foodbank and local Citizens Advice

Local charities Citizens Advice South Warwickshire and Stratford-upon-Avon Foodbank have joined forces to help people access the help they need.

This project was developed between the two partner charities in response to the current pandemic, each bringing unique and specialist support to the people they help.  Following a positive start before Christmas the project saw 65 people in its first 6 weeks.

left, Marion Homer, Manager at Stratford-upon-Avon Foodbank and right, Julie Newton Caseworker at Citizens Advice South Warwickshire.

Julie Newton is the dedicated caseworker for this project on behalf of Citizens Advice South Warwickshire and has been working alongside Stratford-upon-Avon Foodbank since October 2020.

“I was excited to be involved from the start of this project and offer help and advice, whether it’s a benefit issue, employment or any other crisis.  It has been inspiring to contact people and make a difference to their lives because otherwise they would not have known where to turn to for help So far, the difficulties people have faced include high energy bills, hospital travel costs and homelessness.”

Anyone needing support from Stratford-upon-Avon Foodbank is able to access support from Julie at Citizens Advice South Warwickshire and all foodbank staff and volunteers are able to make a referral directly to the project for Julie’s support.

Among a handful of funders backing the project are Asda and the Misses Barrie Charitable Trust. The project is currently running for 12 months until October 2021, during which time it aims to help around 200 people build a more financially sustainable future for themselves and their families.

Marion Homer, Manager at Stratford-upon-Avon Foodbank said: “It is sad that so many people need our help at the Foodbank so our aim is to work out their needs. Together with Citizens Advice South Warwickshire providing longer term advice and solutions, we believe we are edging closer to solving the problems that cause people to be without food.”  

#KeepTheLifeline Citizens Advice South Warwickshire 2021

  • Local charity says 47% of people seeking its advice on benefits have never needed its support before
  • Number of people claiming Universal Credit in Stratford-on-Avon and Warwick districts has risen by 106% and 127% respectively since the pandemic began

Local charity, Citizens Advice South Warwickshire, has warned of the “devastating impact” of a scheduled cut to Universal Credit in April.

Staff and volunteers at the charity have helped 1,177 people with Universal Credit since March last year. Around 47% of people in south Warwickshire seeking its advice on benefits have never contacted the charity before.

Advisers say many needing support from the benefits system have lost their job or suffered a drop in income as a result of the pandemic.

Citizens Advice South Warwickshire, which has continued to provide one-to-one support throughout the pandemic, warns that local families could be pushed into further hardship if the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift ends as planned in April. 

For households in the West Midlands region, the loss of £20 a week is equivalent to two and a half days of food and 6 days of energy costs.

Yvonne Hunter, Chair of Citizens Advice South Warwickshire, said:

“We support people every day whose lives have been turned upside down by this pandemic. For many of them, Universal Credit is the lifeline that has helped pay the bills and put food on the table.

“But households across south Warwickshire now face the devastating prospect of a £20 a week cut to their benefits in just a few short months. 

“With a tough outlook in the jobs market, we’re urging the Government to continue doing the right thing and maintain the Universal Credit uplift.”

 

 

Reaching out to people in need in Warwick

Citizens Advice South Warwickshire has rounded off its 80th anniversary celebrations securing more than £125,000 in funding for a vital project helping people in crisis in Warwick.

The charity, founded during the Second World War to offer free, confidential and impartial advice, will receive an annual grant of £42,000 for the next three years from the Charity of Thomas Oken and Nicholas Eyffler. The grant will support the Reach Out and Help project and a new debt support service.

In light of the current pandemic, this new expansion comes at a much-needed time for Warwick town residents as job losses and difficult economic times are expected. The service helps people in crisis who aren’t able to access help at normal advice sessions.

Clive Mason, chairman of the Charity of Thomas Oken and Nicholas Eyffler, which was set up in the 16th century, said: “This year has been harsh for many people in our town and the trustees have spent considerable time selecting projects that will have the greatest impact for those in need, which is the principal aim of our charity. We are therefore delighted to continue to work with Citizens Advice South Warwickshire for a further three years, enabling them to expand this service at a time of crisis. This programme complements other projects that we fund, which focus on mental health and early years support.”

Yvonne Hunter, chair of trustees for Citizens Advice South Warwickshire, said: “We are so grateful for this support, which we know will enable us to help those who are disadvantaged, vulnerable or isolated. The pandemic is expected to have a deep impact on people who are already living in desperate situations. A commitment for a further three years and with a greater focus on debt will equip us to deliver a real difference to many people.

“The problems we find behind these closed doors can be heartbreaking, but this new project seeks to offer not only advice and advocacy support but much needed formal debt support with a dedicated debt worker to meet people’s needs and help them put their lives back together,” she said.

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Note to editor:
Citizens Advice South Warwickshire (CASW) is a local, independent charity working to serve people in need across south Warwickshire. We support nearly 7,000 annually making a huge difference to their lives through the dedication of our 26 staff and our 130 volunteers.

Citizens Advice South Warwickshire’s AGM

Notice is hereby given that the Annual General Meeting of Citizens Advice
South Warwickshire (a Company Limited by Guarantee) will be held virtually in line with Government Guidelines on Tuesday 10th of November at 10.30am. 
To secure your place, please book on eventbrite here. To accompany the Annual General Meeting please find our Impact Report 2019-20, with stats, interviews and case studies about the service we have provided over the past year. 

Ordinary business:
1. To receive and consider the Report of the Directors and Trustees and
Financial Statements for the year ended 31 March 2020, together with the Independent Examiners’ Report.

2. To appoint Burgis and Bullock and to authorise the Trustees to fix their remuneration.

3. Election and re-election of Trustees.

Special business:
There is no special business

By order of the Board.
Members of the public are cordially invited.

Charity Number 1106631
A Company Registered by Guarantee Number 5168480

Citizens Advice South Warwickshire thanks its wonderful volunteers for their dedication

Citizens Advice South Warwickshire [CASW], a local charity has continued giving advice to those in need throughout the Coronavirus pandemic thanks to the tireless dedication of its staff and volunteers. Everyone quickly rallied to ensure as many people as possible could be helped over the phone, email or a webchat as face-to-face appointments have not been possible. 

Volunteers’ Week runs from Monday 1 to Sunday 7 June, and the charity wants to thank all their volunteers for contributing not only during this exceptional time of Covid-19 [Coronavirus], but throughout the year too. Over 130 volunteers at Citizens Advice South Warwickshire contribute more than 800 hours of their time each week. In the last year they have helped over 6,000 people with more than 32,000 problems; including debt, housing, benefits and employment issues.  

Claire Lomas (pictured) a volunteer adviser, with Citizens Advice South Warwickshire said: “I joined CASW over a year ago and am working towards becoming a full generalist adviser. My motivation to volunteer is to give back to the community where I was born and have raised my family. I stay in touch with the other volunteers, with whom I have strong bonds, through a WhatsApp group and we share support and funny videos to help keep us going. 

Queries and client profile have changed dramatically; people who never thought they would need employment advice or state benefits are reaching out. Since lockdown friends and family have taken an active interest in my role with CASW in a way that they haven’t before. I feel that I am actually contributing to help those in crisis. While things feel out of control, I am making a difference.

When I am not looking after my family or volunteering, I work for our family company and also teach cello. Music is a great way to relax after a difficult day!”

Yvonne Hunter, Chair and a volunteer herself, at Citizens Advice South Warwickshire said: “Our unique service in south Warwickshire involves almost 5-times the number of volunteers to paid staff. Throughout the year our wonderful volunteers contribute their time, energy and expertise to make a huge difference to people’s lives and help keep our vital service running. Whether they have been able to continue in their role recently, or have paused their volunteering, their support throughout the year has been truly invaluable.

“I cannot thank them enough for their continued dedication. We really couldn’t do it without them!” 

If you’re interested in finding out more about volunteering with Citizens Advice South Warwickshire, contact: 

Joanne Adams, Trainer (Stratford Citizens Advice office)
Email: joanne.adams@casouthwarwickshire.org.uk

Natalie Lavin, Trainer (Warwick Citizens Advice office)
Email: natalie.lavin@casouthwarwickshire.org.uk

 For more information about the types of roles we offer visit our website www.casouthwarwickshire.org.uk/work-with-us

 

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Generous volunteers rally to deliver much needed support to Citizens Advice South Warwickshire

Local charity, Citizens Advice South Warwickshire has seen a surge in the number of issues each person has needed help with by almost 30% compared to the same period last year.  These people are being supported on the phone, by email or webchat while the normal face-to-face service is temporarily suspended due to the Covid-19 [Coronavirus] outbreak.

The demand for the whole Citizens Advice network has also been huge with a record-breaking 2.2 million page views of the Citizens Advice Website in recent days. 

Yvonne Hunter, Chair of Trustees for Citizens Advice South Warwickshire said “We have been moved by the generosity of our volunteers, who have mobilised so quickly to help our community’s most vulnerable during this difficult time. Delivering advice on the phone, email or by webchat takes skill and we have found our volunteers and staff stepping up to this extraordinary and unprecedented change with energy and amazing dedication. I cannot thank them enough.” 

She thanked the volunteers, who outnumber staff by almost five to one and have continued to help throughout this difficult time, “Like everyone else we were presented with this challenge almost overnight: to remodel a predominately face-to -face service – which provided over 10,000 face-to-face appointments last year – to being entirely virtual and home-based. As a result, we have seen staff and volunteers rise to the challenge by learning new technologies at lightning speed, and offering their home phones and computers, all in a bid to meet the rising advice needs of our community in crisis.”

Jeremy Vanes, Chief Executive for Citizens Advice South Warwickshire said that employment issues are up by 25% and Universal Credit issues up by over 80% in this early stage of lockdown. “We continue to track the needs of our community to ensure we offer the most comprehensive advice service possible. We have also supported our staff and volunteers to maintain data protection as well as our exceptional advice quality standards through these difficult circumstances.”

How to contact Citizens Advice South Warwickshire for support during the Covid-19 outbreak:

When lines are busy, we still have an answerphone facility. Return calls might be made outside normal hours and from a withheld number. When leaving any message, please remember to provide:

  • Your name
  • Your number, and;
  • A brief, clear outline of your issue

An adviser will then call you back as soon as they can. 

If your query is about our Help to Claim service (claiming Universal Credit):

To refer to a specialist project, please continue in the usual way. 

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Our offices are temporarily closed, but you can still contact us

CASW is working to provide the best, most sustainable service during the Coronavirus outbreak. We have a duty of care to keep clients, volunteers and staff safe in line with Government Guidelines. To do this, we need to make changes to our service.

OUR OFFICES ARE NOW CLOSED

We are providing no face to face appointments and no drop in sessions through any of our offices, outreaches or home visiting projects unless in an absolute emergency and only if we have capacity. 

To remain available and effective, we have increased our capacity in four areas to support our community in the safest way possible:

When lines are busy, we still have an answer phone facility. Call backs might be made outside core hours and from a withheld number. When leaving an answerphone message, please remember to provide:

  • Your name
  • Your number; and,
  • A brief, clear outline of your issue

An adviser will then call you back as soon as they can. 

If your query is about our Help to Claim service for claiming Universal Credit:

As with everyone during these difficult times, we may need to change our service as Government guidance changes but we will stay in touch via email, social media and our website. 

Please look after yourselves and please get in touch if you need us. As we have been for the last 80 years – we are here to help. 

Christmas closures 2019

CASW is has the following opening hours:
 
Both offices open on Monday 23rd December.
 
Tuesday 24th:
Leamington office closed (this is our normal closed day)
Stratford upon Avon office open as normal
We are then closed between Christmas and New Year, reopening as normal on Thursday 2nd January. Thursday is our normal closed day in Stratford, Leamington will be open as usual. 
 
Wishing you a lovely Christmas break, from all of us at CASW.
 

The number of people helped by us would have more than filled the Royal Albert Hall

More than 6,000 people were helped and 32,000 issues were dealt with during the 2018/2019.

Yvonne Hunter, Chair of Trustees for Citizens Advice South Warwickshire said

“Most of the people who come to us have multiple problems and we have specialist advisers who can help. Nearly half of our clients have a disability and it’s evident to us that many mental health problems in the community are not being addressed.” 

She thanked local authorities who provided about 50% of the local charity’s funding. 

“I know this funding makes sense to them. We managed to get £3million additional income for our clients – probably more,  as we don’t always hear about the outcome of our help. This is money that on the whole goes straight back into the local community. So we are a good investment. “

Mayor of Stratford Kate Rolfe, a former trustee of the local Citizens Advice said

“When I first joined Citizens Advice in Stratford I thought it was a government-supported body, so I’m aware of the need for funding.  I am very pleased that you are one of my chosen charities for my year as Mayor”.

Jeremy Vanes, Chief Executive, said that benefits and debt topped the list of most common problems, but South Warwickshire faced particular difficulties.

“Most Citizens Advice services around the country have one or two outreach locations, but in South Warwickshire we regularly take our services to 13 different locations.  We also have 12 other staff who can provide home visits for people who meet the remits of our special projects. Transport and communications in this area sometimes makes it difficult for people to come to us”.

He said that Citizens Advice were helping a higher number of EU nationals who made up 10% of clients – an increase on last year.  

The Impact Report with full details of the work of Citizens Advice South Warwickshire can be found on their website

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