Autumn Partner’s Briefing:

Quarter 1 Client Summary:

In quarter 1 (April to June 2021) we saw 4,273 clients who had some 15,237 different issues or problems. For actual clients this is down by 10.7% from the same quarter in the previous year and is a decrease of some 4.2% on the previous quarter. The reduced volume, we think, reflects both the stabilising of demand for advice (at least temporarily), but also the impact of our return to more face to face and locally delivered services. The issue count, this is the actual number of problems, is up by 5%, reflecting a more complex range of advice for each person who we help.

The profile of issues remains volatile, something which is unusual. In quarter 1 we saw a 66% increase in education enquiries, a 62% increase in immigration work (a continued upwards trajectory as we supported large numbers through the EU Settlement Scheme), a 39% increase in travel and communications, with a steady rise in consumer problems at 28% up on the last quarter. The large subject categories: benefits, housing and employment all saw rises of approximately 12% each, reflecting the still volatile environment our clients are living in.

With an increase in the level of benefits gained for clients (up some 58%) to very early £2million, we see a beginning of the return to a more normal working of the social security system during this quarter.

Our website traffic continued to grow, up some 35% on the quarter, to 32,983 hits. We think this steady rise is connected to our improved social media profile, and the success of our regular syndicated weekly advice column.

The busiest wards were Pendleton and Charlestown, followed by Broughton, and Weaste & Seedley. Our systems have now switched to the revised wards.

New partner’s referral portal:

We soft launched our new partners’ referral portal in April – and to date 23 new agencies are signed up to us it to make referrals to us. The portal sits on our website and is easy to use. With the requirements needed to manage personal data our work with third parties needs more formality than may have been the case previously. If you want to sign up to use this new system just let us know.

Document uploading and video advice:

We have also set up a new document upload facility on our website to allow clients to let us have copies of their paperwork more easily. This is a part of our programme of development of video advice.

Support for the Salford Summer of Fun programme:

We were delighted to be able to be one of the Salford Summer of Fun delivery partners – providing a dedicated advice offer to every family taking part in the scheme. This complemented our usual annual school uniform service, which ran again this year. Every family taking part on this year’s Summer of Fun has been offered advice on free school meals, benefit maximisation, debt, school uniforms and anything else they might have needed.

Healthy start voucher scheme take-up campaign:

Working jointly with our partners Salford Food Share, we launched our ambitious joint campaign to improve the take up of the healthy start scheme in Salford to 80%, from a current rate of 59% of eligible families claiming.  Salford is currently missing out on £1.5 million of extra income for our poorest households. This work is being mirrored by partners at Greater Manchester to enable us to use regional media efforts more effectively and is planned to run for 5 years. The campaign’s official launch, this autumn, is being timed to coincide with a significant range of changes to the scheme itself (see our advice piece published in August). So far, we have started a social media campaign, met with midwifery colleagues, met with public health, met with GM colleagues, been part of the Greater Manchester Citizens Advice campaign steering group, briefed lead members, and organised a city-wide campaign meeting. Feel free to contact me if you would like to know more about this.

Breathing Space Scheme’s Introduction (along with the changes to debt relief order thresholds):

We were pleased to support several local partners in their preparation for and launch of the new breathing space scheme. We also ran awareness campaigns about both this new breathing space scheme as well as important changes extending the numbers of people who would be eligible for debt relief orders. 

EU Settlement Scheme:

We were working very hard to make sure all our Salford EU citizens knew about and were given any help they needed to register under the EU Settlement Scheme before its end of June deadline. We worked very closely with the council – and in particular it’s press team, to make sure we were all getting the word out. We think Salford has done a good job of getting people registered – despite the added complications of the Covid crisis. We are now working to make people aware of the possibility of making a late application. 

Work with Age UK Salford to improve problem noticing:

We have a very long standing and hugely valuable partnership with Salford Age UK, and this spring, as a part of both ours post-covid normalisation work we ran a programme of training work for Age UK home care and home help staff around problem noticing and referral for their clients. 

Real Living Wage Kick Start Scheme:

We were pleased to be a lead member of the consortium (manged by Citizens Advice Greater Manchester) and working with colleagues across the voluntary sector, to be able to offer the only voluntary sector real living wage kick start option in Greater Manchester – providing six new jobs here in Salford.

 

Tom Togher

August 2021.