Late Spring Partner’s Briefing.

Client demand analysis:

The total number of clients seen for quarter four is broadly in line with the earlier quarter, at just a slight increase. The long trend for more issues per client seen is still noticeable in this quarter, which sees 7% more issues than the previous quarter. This is indicative of the trend for people to present to us with more complex sets of problems and advice needs. This trend is matched against the national trend for Citizens Advice, and in line with the ongoing cost of living crisis, is not unexpected.

The value of income gained for our clients pushed up in the quarter by some 2% and was in total for the quarter some £2.2 million. This additional income secured for some of Salford’s poorest households represents a return of the local authority’s investment to us at 16 times its investment.

Our service transformation work continues to show good results, with one in eight of our clients now coming through a digital referral. There are more than 30 active partners signed up to our online referral system, with the city council being for the most part the largest referrer of clients. Contact us if your organisation would like to join this scheme.

Similarly, our website continues to play a vital role in supporting people around their information needs, with some 38,000 people using this each quarter. We have been working on a refresh of the site, and an enhanced ‘cost-of-living’ section for the site throughout the quarter.

Universal Credit, and the acceleration of the DWP’s programme of managed migration has meant that enquiries here are 11% up on the quarter. We saw a 55% increase in the number of family law issues – unfortunately, this is typically the case immediately after the Christmas period and relates to about additional 145 enquires about divorce and separation.

A steady increase in housing enquires, 4% up on the quarter, sees the total number of housing enquires rise to its highest in recent years

Health and care enquires maintain a steady rise, reflecting significant concern around these areas.

Employment enquires are remaining stable – and have done so now for three quarters. This suggest to us that the economy in Salford is stabilising. 

Debt enquiries have remained very stable, at or about 2,000 each quarter for the last three quarters. This is not necessarily indicative of an ease in the debt burden in the community, as it is the number helped is impacted by our capacity to advice. Within debt advice we continued to see a pronounced and concerning trend so that most of our clients now have ‘negative budgets’.

 

Help to Claim (Universal Credit Support Service) re-funded:

We are delighted to announce (late because of a press embargo) that the National Association of Citizens Advice has been re-awarded the contract to deliver the national Help to Claim service, and we – at Salford Citizens Advice have been appointed as a delivery partner for the service. This means that we can maintain a resource with real expertise around Universal Credit – which during ‘managed migration’ gives a real benefit to Salford.

 

Cost of Living Podcasts:

We are grateful to the National Lottery who awarded us a small grant to produce a series of podcasts giving advice on dealing with the cost of living. These are being published on our website for easy access. We are also offering them to share by other partner organisations. If you think you might like to include any of them on your organisation’s website – please just let us know.

 

We passed our annual quality audit:

I’m very happy to announce that we have passed our recent ‘Membership Leadership Assessment’ – this is essentially our annual audit of our governance and management systems. (Our last audit was only in July, but this was because it had to be re-scheduled due to my availability).

 

Household Support Fund:

We were busy campaigning both nationally and locally for the government to extend the household support fund, so we were delighted to hear that the Government decided to extend the fund until October. We believe t hat the fund makes an incredible difference to some of our most vulnerable households and were very anxious about how these households would manage without the help available from this fund. If you need help from the scheme because of some urgent need then apply to Salford Assist at: https://www.salford.gov.uk/advice-and-support/salford-assist/

 

Citizens Advice in Greater Manchester next day debt appointment offer for victims of Loan Sharks:

Following the recent Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner’s round table on loan sharks, we are pleased to announce that all of our Greater Manchester sister Citizens Advice services have agreed to sign up to our Salford offer of a next day urgent debt advice appointment for anyone who is worried about loan sharks. This means we can all explain the extra help that is available to people facing a local shark, as well as start the process of tackling debts. To access this service in Salford just use our email enquiry form, or (for elsewhere in Greater Manchester) use our out of hours service on 0161 850 5053, call or text.

 

Tom Togher

June 2024