Letter from Citizens Advice Walsall regarding Future Plans 2017-2018
Dear Partners and Stakeholders,
As of yesterday we commenced formal redundancy proceedings with 10 members of staff and I thought it appropriate to provide you with an update as to our future plans.
During the last five years the level of funding received by Citizens Advice Walsall has reduced from circa 1.2 million in 2012-13 to £635,747 in 2017-18 which is a reduction of 53%. We lost significant income due to Legal Aid reforms and the availability of funding sources has greatly diminished as the budgets of statutory agencies and other funders have reduced.
During recent years we have taken steps to negotiate and agree a range of measures with staff to minimise the impact of our reducing income including – using reserves, not filling vacant posts, recruiting existing staff to new projects, voluntary reduction in working hours, buying additional leave and minimising non-essential expenditure.
Over this period staffing levels have reduced from 40 to 25 staff and will reduce further in the next few weeks.
We have reached the point where we need to implement a fundamental review of the services we offer to clients and the staff we employ to ensure that Citizens Advice Walsall remains financially viable and capable of responding to the challenges and opportunities we face in the future. In addition to working towards co-locating ourselves with other voluntary sector organisations in the Civic Centre later this year, decisions about the new structure have taken into account;
Ensuring that the organisation remains financially viable
• The level of income available
• The need to achieve a balanced budget
• The need to increase the level of reserves
Ensuring that the organisation is properly run
• Making sure we meet our obligations to national Citizens Advice
• Funder and partner contractual requirements
• Compliance with Charity Commission & other statutory obligations
Ensuring that we remain competitive in a difficult economic climate
• Retaining specialist staff delivering funded work
• Retaining staff with the skills to train and support volunteers
• Retaining staff with the skills to ensure quality of advice
• Retaining staff with strategic management skills
• Retaining staff with bid writing and income generation skills
• Retaining capacity to “adapt and re-grow” the organisation
• Developing alternative digital methods of service delivery
Impact on Service Delivery
We will provide the following specialist services
Money Advice provided by our team of 4 Debt Caseworkers
Housing Advice and Court Duty Representation provided by our Housing Solicitor
Macmillan Benefits Advice (for cancer patients) provided by 2 Advisers
BBO Family Matters (advice, training and work project) provided by 2 Advisers
We will provide the following generalist information and advice service delivered in the main by our team of 26 volunteer advisers. This service currently assists an average of 182 clients per week. Due to reduced staffing levels our capacity to support clients from the end of March will be greatly reduced.
Open door service
Clients will also be referred to and assisted to access online advice via the citizens advice website www.citizensadvice.org.uk
During the next few weeks we aim to progress existing complex casework as far as possible. In particular we have 141 benefit appeals cases including cases for clients with mental health issues that we will need to stop working with once funding finishes at the end of March. Regrettably, we will not have the resources to support complex work of this nature in the future.
Please contact Claire Foulkes, Acting Chief Executive 01922 700627 or 07885 914101 should you wish to discuss the proposals.