Salford Citizens Advice 

Partnership Briefing Quarter 4 Spring 2022.

Client Trends:

We saw 4,573 clients in quarter 4 (up 10% on last quarter) and dealt with 15,772 issues (up 6% on last quarter). The most significant increases were seen in Education (up 46%), Health & Community Care (up 26%), Immigration (up 22%), and Travel & Transport (up 19%). On average there are three to four issues to every client.

We are beginning to see the signs of a protracted period of higher client demand than we can easily meet, as people in Salford are increasing feeling the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, and major household costs rise. We are particularly concerned about the impact on debt advice demands as we move forward through next year, being mindful that most of the actual cost rise impacts are yet to come. We remain critical of the recent round of money advice retendering ran by Money and Pensions Advice Service ran, but abandoned recently, but which has led to substantial instability in the debt advice work force which in turn has feed through into local staff losses of some highly skilled staff to us and to the debt advice sector more generally.

The overall annual client count for the year ending March 31, 2022, was 17,600. This is also a modest decline on last year, as we move back to more face-to-face client work, as our bureaux services are progressively normalised following the end of the pandemic. 

Financial gains in Welfare Benefits were £2,405,262. Our added value gains of £56,316, for the quarter.

Our online referral portal continued to be a success as over 28 different agencies made 379 referrals. This was an increase of 25% from last quarter. This route into the service now represents some 8% of all our clients. There are some national developments around Casebook (our national Cabx case management system) to support partner referrals and limited pre-population of client records. We have agreed to be included in the role out of this work. It may well supersede our own efforts locally. We are working hard to make the business of third-party referral to us more straight forward, and to avoid clients needing to present through already over stretched high street services, and importantly in needing to retell their stories. 

Household Support Fund:

We have been delighted to support Salford City Council’s delivery of the government’s Household Support Fund – the emergency funding given to council hardship support schemes to compensate in some small shape the removal of the £20 weekly universal credit uplift. We have been able to allocate some £45k of the fund ring fenced for our clients along with a fund of £100k ring fenced for people using food projects across the city. We still believe that it would have been more effective to have retained the £20 a week uplift to universal credit. We welcome the government’s recent decision to extend this programme as an emergency response to the cost-of-living crisis and look forward to being able to continue our support to colleagues at the council in delivering the next tranche of the programme.

Future Support Offer:

We welcome the DWP’s decision to renew funding to support clients moving onto Universal Credit – and are happy to announce that we are one of some forty or so local Citizens Advice Bureaux that have been awarded a subcontract from the National Association of Citizens Advice to deliver what is now called the ‘Future Support Offer’.

Domestic Abuse and social prescribing pilot project:

We secured some funding from the current CVS and Salford NHS health improvement fund to set up a new pilot project around social prescribing for people experiencing domestic abuse. This will be commencing in April and will feed into our already well-established domestic abuse advice service.

Support for refugees from the Ukraine Invasion:

Citizens Advice nationally and regionally have been working together to provide a range of tailored support to people fleeing the war in Ukraine. We have been pleased to support these efforts. 

The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux’s public advice online service has lots of useful information about the current crisis and you can get further advice at https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk.

If you need any more locally tailored support, please do feel free to contact us directly.

Tom Togher

May 2022.