We cherry-pick from a range of interventions available to us from our fantastic partners, so each month we shine a light on a different support offer. This time we’re looking at Citizens Advice Northumberland which provides our advice service and a financial MOT to all Bridge beneficiaries.
Citizens Advice Northumberland
Providing financial MOT’s and advice caseworker support
Citizens Advice Northumberland Bridge Adviser team offer a ‘Financial MOT’ to all Bridge beneficiaries on entry to and exit from the Bridge programme. This MOT ensures the correct benefit entitlement is being received, checks for any problems with debt, and provides budgeting support, followed by advice and information on any other matters that may be of concern to the beneficiary.
Any problems identified in the MOT will see the Bridge Advice caseworker work one to one with the beneficiary until, as far as possible, the matter is resolved. We cannot guarantee success, but we will work alongside and empower beneficiaries with the right information and support needed to get the best possible results. The exit ‘MOT’ is an opportunity for beneficiaries to get information on how any changes in their circumstances e.g. getting employment or entering training might impact on their finances and ensures as they leave the Bridge Project they know how to contact Citizens Advice for assistance in the future.
Service changes during COVID-19
The only change in our service over lockdown is that we have not been able to meet our beneficiaries face to face and have provided all our services by phone, e-mail and occasionally webchat. We think that for most people, this has worked out well. We now live in a world where, particularly financial affairs, from banking to benefits claims, are carried out online and by phone; so with additional support from a Bridge Worker and other partners, we are seeing this as an opportunity to assist beneficiaries to gain confidence in using phone and IT as a method of seeking advice.
Angela O’Brien, Lead Bridge Adviser, said of their service:
“Since the 1st of April we have been in contact with 199 beneficiaries and provided advice on 744 different issues – 63% were benefits and UC related. We have recorded approximately £45,000 of benefit take-up but this is the tip of the iceberg as many cases are yet to reach conclusion. We are very lucky to have a lot of expertise in our team and also people who really strive to get the best outcomes for beneficiaries and enjoy the work they do. We recently added a Bridge Worker into our team which we feel is making our beneficiaries experience that much smoother.”
What our beneficiaries say
“Thank you very much for all your hard work. Soon as I saw the letter you wrote I knew we were on a winner. You’re the best!”
“I received a lot of information, the women I saw made some new suggestions, which was a great help. I would definitely recommend anyone to use this service”
“Was referred to Citizens Advice by my Bridge Worker, had not used them before and did not think they could help me. I was wrong, I have claimed extra benefits as I have disabilities and have also had a lot of help with some debts.”
And finally here’s the Citizens Advice Northumberland Bridge Team meeting in lockdown!
Find out more about Citizens Advice Northumberland through their website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.