A helping hand for everyone: Now it’s even easier to access Citizens Advice

citizens advice

Mr Mason* lives alone and is not able to work due to health issues.

Escalating financial problems mean he is stressed about losing his home and not being able to pay bills - and feels there is no one listening to him.

Where can he turn?

Citizens Advice Harrow is here for every Harrow resident in need of general information and advice about their rights and responsibilities - this could relate to anything from education or employment to welfare support or immigration.

And now it’s even easier for people such as Mr Mason to get in touch.

It offers assistance via face-to-face, email, webchat and from March it has also extended the hours of its phone service – opening lines until 7pm on Mondays and Thursdays.

Sue Anderson, Portfolio holder for Community, Culture and Resident Engagement, said: “Now anyone can access Citizens Advice - even if they are working or housebound or unable to get to the drop-in for whatever reason. It is wonderful that we can also appeal to younger people through measures such as the webchat.

“It is testament to the hard work of volunteers and staff that this extended service can be offered. The people of Harrow will reap the benefits and I look forward to seeing the service go from strength to strength.”

In Mr Mason’s case, Citizens Advice Harrow helped him get backdated disability allowances and housing benefit he did not know he was entitled to and offered him advice and support in finding the best gas, electricity and water deals to keep his bills down. His finances are now far more stable and he credits the staff and volunteers with putting him back on track.

What the service offers:

Citizens Advice Harrow – which has served the borough for more than 70 years - won a three-year contract to deliver its confidential and non-judgmental service on behalf of the Council. At a time when many residents are hit by financial austerity, welfare reform and changes to legal aid and universal credit, it can help with:

  • Housing
  • Welfare benefits
  • Money/debt
  • Employment
  • Well-being (i.e. health and social care not covered by the Care Act SWISH service)
  • Family and personal matters
  • Immigration

It also works out of the Early Support Hubs in the borough, supports Council tenants, runs several workshops and also supports:

  • St Luke’s Hospice regarding people’s end-of-life concerns
  • Catalyst Housing Association - looking at welfare benefits in Harrow, Brent, Hillingdon and Barnet
  • Schools – currently a pilot scheme for parents and staff at Canons High School
  • Scottish Power to help lift people out of fuel poverty
  • Local solicitors to offer a pro bono service


    The Council has also been able to secure an additional investment over the next three years for another advisor in Harrow Citizens Advice which will support residents with debt issues. This is because of additional value that businesses which contract with the council have to provide.

Citizens Advice Harrow has set up an Advice Network Forum which ensures all the borough’s organisations involved in giving information to residents support each other. This may be through training or ‘smarter referrals’ so that a resident’s journey to access help is easier.

CAH chairperson Frances Logan said: “We are excited to be able to extend our expertise, which will mean we can continue to do our best to help Harrow residents such as Mr Mason.

“We arm residents with the facts and possible outcomes of different options. That way they can make the decision that’s right for them. If needed, we can also offer practical support such as help with filling in certain forms, writing letters or negotiating with third parties.

“It is fantastic that the Council has continued to invest in an information and advice service and we will continue to strengthen our partnership with other voluntary groups and make a success of the services we offer.

“Our additional advisor is great news given the numbers of residents needing information and advice in the borough and the forthcoming roll-out of Universal Credit.”

Last year Citizens Advice Harrow handled up to 13,000 advice issues.

For advice, email advice@citizensadviceharrow.org.uk, call 020 8427 9477 or visit www.citizensadviceharrow.org.uk

 

 

(* Names have been changed to protect confidentiality)

 

Walk-in (face-to-face) sessions:

Tuesday: 9.45am-12.30pm

Thursday: 9.45am-12.30pm

 

Telephone advice available:

Monday: 12.30pm-7pm

Tuesday: 9.30am–12.30pm, 1.30pm –4pm

Thursday: 12.30pm–7pm

Friday: 9.30am-12.30pm, 1.30pm-4pm

(Please note the last call will be 30mins before closing)