Partners’ Briefing Winter 2020

Our winter partners’ briefing covers our work during the second three months (July, August, and September) of the special Covid pandemic arrangements. The second lockdown, and revised tier three measures will be covered in the next quarter’s briefing. In this quarter, a partial resumption of normal face to face services was possible – although to make sure that this was ‘Covid-secure’ the numbers of clients were controlled. We always anticipated that as we moved to a resumption of face-to-face services, whilst also maintaining a high virtual phone centre capacity that we would see a decline in total volume – as our resources were stretched to accommodate both channels of access. In fact, the overall change in total numbers of clients supported in this (Q2) quarter was only 7% down on the previous (Q1) telephone only quarter. We are very grateful to our staff and our volunteers for the continued and amazing efforts over the last months. We are also very grateful to our colleagues in Salford’s Gateway centres and hubs – who have been nothing but tireless in their support of us re-opening our services delivered through their centres.

Client Summary:

We saw 4,458 clients in this quarter, of which there were 16,986 separate advice issues. Our top enquiry issues were welfare benefits and housing. This period compared to the same quarter last year shows a marked increase in housing, employment enquiries, and in the category, we use to record charitable assistance – representing a marked increase in our assistance of people in situations of acute hardship.

We provided additional support to 157 people referred to us from the Spirit of Salford helpline and support hub.

Our website services saw a 51% increase in use over the quarter, to some 17,989 visits.

The top three wards were Langworthy, Broughton, and Ordsall.

A significant and continued increase in the numbers of people seeking advice about relationship problems is a feature of both this and the previous quarter.

For a more detailed policy analysis of some of these trends you might want to read the notes of a recent presentation we made to the City Council’s Policy Forum, in a separate article below.

Refurbishment of our Hope Library / Salford Royal building:

Our building at Hope Library / Salford Royal had suffered substantial damage to its roof last summer – and the work to repair the damage was then further delayed because of the Covid crisis. We have now been able to finish the building’s refurbishment – and will be restoring a service in January. The building in the first instance will house a new phone service hub as well as our training work. Our thinking is that as the Covid restrictions are lifted – many of our volunteers will feel more comfortable in helping with phone advice in a well socially distanced working environment- which we have created in the refurbished building.

Healthy Holidays Support:

We were delighted to be able to support the delivery of this year’s (virtual) healthy holidays programme. Our crisis team as well as our help to claim team were used to identify those families were a new eligibility to free school meals had arisen, but these were not already on free school meals rolls. 

Lottery funding to support our employment advising:

We were delighted to have been awarded extra funding from the National Lottery’s Fund to support our employment advising through these difficult times. We have also set up arrangements whereby Citizens Advice services across Greater Manchester are able to respond to any large-scale redundancy that might occur in a part of the City-region which is too much for a local service to adequately respond to.

Supporting the council’s virtual ‘Cloud, Coffee and Chat’ programme:

We were delighted to be able to support the council’s outreach programme to help people who were beginning to find it difficult to manage their council tax payments. We have been long term partners to this work but were pleased to be able to support its move to online delivery through the current crisis. Salford is still one of only a relatively small number of local authorities to have signed up to the Local Government Association and Citizens Advice ‘Council Tax Good Practice Protocol’.

School Uniform Campaign:

This year we worked in partnership again with Wood Street Mission as well as others to be able to provide 137 new families with school uniforms this summer- as well as existing families who registered last year.

Innovation Programme Funding:

As a part of the government’s support to the Citizens Advice service to respond to the current crisis we were pleased to be awarded some funding to let us explore ways of improving our digital services offer – specifically in letting us trial ways of offering online video conferencing as a more mainstream route into advice for the future.

Domestic Abuse Online Safe Space:

We signed up to the Post Office’s scheme whereby organisations such as us – who provide advice to people expiring domestic abuse can use their websites to help people find support easily, and without risking detection. Our website now includes a domestic abuse safe space where people can search for help without leaving a record of their search on their device – as well as with a hide option.


Tom Togher,

December 21, 2020.