Local communities pay for large chunks of the work carried out by Wealden Citizens Advice.
Without that money, the work of supporting the most vulnerable in society who are often at crisis point could not take place, writes Paul Watson.
In Part Five of this week’s series focussing on the people and volunteers who make such a difference, we focus on how Citizens Advice is funded.
Wealden District Council takes the lead in local authority funding, supported by town and parish councils.
However, there was still a shortfall of £100,000 last year.
Uckfield Town Council has set aside £18,836 in next year’s budget as its grant to Citizens Advice.
The money from Uckfield Town Council covers about a third of the running costs of the Uckfield office.
The service pays £15,450 rent straight back to the council as its landlord for its offices at The Hub, in Civic Approach.
The service is trying to reduce its rental costs, but moving to somewhere cheaper is not straightforward and would incur removal costs.
A move could also potentially reduce income for the town council as the premises may not be easily lettable.
While the service is provided primarily by volunteers, Wealden Citizens Advice has to meet the national Advice Quality Standard and their money advice is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
To do that means the service must have paid supervision at all its offices to support the volunteers and provide a high level of quality assurance on the service provided to clients: they are often dealing with people in crisis (facing homelessness/court action etc) so they need to get it right.
Other free services Uckfield residents benefit from that are funded by Wealden District Council, or through contracts/grants Wealden Citizens Advice has bid for or raised private funds for, include an expert money advice caseworker service for those in serious financial difficulty and a warm home check service for vulnerable people at risk of living in a cold home.
The service also does public education work, for example running pop up energy desks in the winter.
The service is also well supported by other towns and parishes in the district.
Wealden District Council’s annual grant, which is increasing by £15,000 to £165,000, to the service covers the costs of:
- the paid supervisors
- 50% of the expert money advice service (the majority of clients in serious financial difficulty owe money to Wealden District Council in rent, council tax or benefit overpayments)
- a contribution to the service’s office, governance and volunteer related expenses (including training).
Crowborough Town Council awarded the service £21,500 this year towards the running of the Crowborough office while Hailsham Town Council gave £13,287 for their local office.
The opening hours of both offices are the same as Uckfield’s.
For outreach services, Heathfield and Waldron Parish Council provided £5,250 this year to fund a weekly half-day face to face drop in session in Heathfield.
Willingdon Parish Council contributes towards the costs of booked advice appointments at its parish council offices (£960) and Polegate Town Council provide free accommodation and £500 for its pre-booked appointments on Thursdays.
Other parishes which support the service include Buxted (£800), Maresfield (£1500), Wadhurst (£1000), Rotherfield (£300), Hadlow Down (£200), Pevensey (£150), Westham (£500), Chiddingly (£200), Horam (£200), Hellingly (£1,100).
As grant timetables change, others may well contribute later in the year.
Vital support to service
Wealden Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Kay Birch, said:
“We simply could not provide the service we do without the help of our local communities – they are an essential part of the team and we are so grateful for all their support both practical and financial.”
On top of district, town and parish council support, Wealden Citizens Advice has to find about £100,000 a year to maintain the service.
This target proved unachievable last year and the service was sadly forced to make redundancies as a result. It is working hard to fill the gap this year, but donations are always welcome.
Earlier in this six part series
Part Two: A last resort for those in crisis
Part Three: Uckfield’s homeless problem
Part four: Living with no heat or hot water
Find local organisations in our Uckfield Directory