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April 2016                          Unsubscribe from this list
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CaSSCA working in partnership with Sussex University
 
Jason Mather giving a talk to law students at the University of Sussex about careers in the charity sector.   
 
We are excited to announce that we will be working in partnership with Sussex University Law School in September 2016. 

12 Final year Law students will be coming to volunteer with us as advisers as part of their academic studies. The students will attend an accelerated gateway type course in September where they will acquire the core skills required to advise our clients throughout their third year of study. They will give face to face, phone and digital advice and will have a keen eye on our research and campaign activities.  Their experiences with us will inform their academic studies and they will be assessed by the University by attending seminars, submitting case studies and writing essays. In addition to having a diverse group of undergraduates working with us, the partnership will also give CaSSCA access to some of the leading academic lawyers in the world, which should help us with many aspects of our work.  It is the first time that volunteering with Citizens Advice has been embedded within an academic course at a prestigious university and we hope that this will be a rolling program for the future.
MP Visit



Sir Peter Bottomley visited the Worthing centre on 11th March. Speaking to staff and volunteers, he was keen to hear the issues our clients present with and the valuable advice we offer locally.  

Sir Peter praised the service we offer his constituents; "If I had a serious problem to deal with I would refer to Citizens Advice. I am grateful for all Citizens Advice does and I honour what they do"
Recent great outcomes we have achieved for our clients

In East Grinstead we helped an elderly client resolve his problems with the DVLA. He had incurred a fine for a vehicle that had been registered off-road. The client returned to thank us.

In Shoreham by Sea, we helped a severely disabled client with her PIP appeal, drafting a written submission for her. The client won her appeal and was awarded the benefit she needed.

In Crawley, we had £65 written off for an 87 year old client, who had been cold-called by a company offering to check if he was in the right council tax band. Following the check, they wrote to him demanding money and threatening court action. After a call from Citizens Advice, the company agreed to drop their claim for the money. 

Hilary Farquhar in Horsham asked HMRC to consider a reduction in the amount of tax credit overpayment a client needed to pay back based on notional entitlement. HMRC admitted they were mistaken in not considering notional entitlement when they first looked at the client’s overpayment in January 2016. They also admitted that in March 2016 they incorrectly advised the client that they could not consider notional entitlement. They have now applied notional entitlement to the overpayments for her single claim and reduced her overpayment for the year 2014-2015 from £8,779.68 to £0 and reduced her overpayment for tax year 2015-16 from £1,833.14 to £392.51.
 
HMRC have looked again at the debt and mental health enquiry form Citizens Advice sent on behalf of the client in February 2016 and have subsequently decided they will not ask her to repay the remaining £392.51. There are no longer any outstanding overpayments on the client’s single claim. Due to the poor customer service and the distress and worry HMRC caused, they have also sent her a payment of £60 as compensation.
 
Homelessness Prevention and Money Advice Specialist Jan Williams helped a client with a Debt Relief Order, and had a loan debt of over £19,000 written off. As a result the client and her daughter can afford to remain in their home.

Probation Adviser Sam Tippins helped a grateful client open a basic account. The client has dyslexia and social anxiety and had been trying to get an account in his own name for 3 years. 

Employment Specialist Martin Phillips saw an employee of many years transferred to an external contractor under TUPE. Over a year year later the external contractor decided he was too expensive and wanted to impose a new contract with a small amount of compensation.

The changes would have resulted in a 50% loss of salary and other benefits. Under TUPE the new employer could have dismissed him using an economic reason if he refused to sign. After 5 months of negotiation they have now accepted that they cannot impose the new terms and the old contract continues.

This will be worth around £80,000 to the client over the remainder of his working life. 
 

ICAS

One of our advice centres was helping a client with a relative’s benefits, when the relative suddenly died. They went on to advise the client as to liability for the deceased relative’s personal debts and rent payments. The client was concerned about the events surrounding the relative’s death which were to be the subject of an inquest and was thinking of making a complaint to the Hospital, so was referred to the ICAS service.

The client attended a meeting with an ICAS advocate and decided to wait until the outcome of the inquest before complaining. The client was given information on how to try and obtain legal representation for the inquest. Unfortunately this is difficult to achieve.

As the client was unable to secure legal representation at the inquest, the ICAS advocate helped the client liaise with the coroner’s office so the client was clear as to what would happen at the inquest. The ICAS advocate went through the inquest documents, which had arrived only two weeks before the inquest date to help the client prepare any questions they might want the ICAS advocate to ask the witnesses.
 
While perusing the documents, the ICAS advocate noticed a discrepancy in the relative’s medical record. Whist the client was aware the advocate was not medically trained, it was agreed that this was an issue the advocate should raise with the coroner. The ICAS advocate then wrote to the coroner expressing the clients concerns about the relative’s care.

A few days later at the inquest the coroner thanked the ICAS advocate for raising the issue as it was not something they had identified. They agreed it needed further investigation and as such made the hospital an ‘interested party’ in the inquest. There is a possibility that the relative’s death was caused by poor treatment. As a result of the information provided it was agreed that the inquest needed to be adjourned and set for a full day rather than the half day that had previously been set aside.

The coroner also thanked the ICAS advocate for tracking down one of the key witnesses in the case. This was after the doctor’s former hospital HR department had informed the coroners officer that they did not know where the doctor was now. By ‘Googling’ the doctor the ICAS advocate was able to find out where they were working and they are now able to attend the next inquest date.  
As a result of raising the issue the hospital trust commenced a serious untoward incident investigation, again something with which the ICAS advocate is assisting the client.

Macmillan

A client was initially referred to Macmillan Welfare Rights Team for a benefit check as he was struggling on his current benefit income of £73.10 a week.  He had recently been rehoused by the local authority following a homelessness application.
 
The allocated accommodation was a private let, uninhabitable due mould and damp. The client believed this was aggravating his lung condition and causing anxiety, but accepted the accommodation in desperation. The team advised on his rights and how to get the landlord to improve the property. The local authority promised to find him more suitable accommodation.  This was raised as a research and campaign issue.
 
The Macmillan team also helped with a £100 fuel grant towards the client’s heating costs, and arranged for an occupational therapist to attend the property to see if any equipment or aids could be provided to help alleviate his breathlessness.
 
They assisted with an application for Personal Independent Payment and the client was awarded £21.80 a week due to his breathlessness.  The Team also chased up his current ESA claim and the client was awarded an additional £36.20 a week.
 
The client’s TV licence and water debts of £242 were cleared following an application to the Cancer Recovery Trust fund, alleviating a great deal of stress, and a Macmillan Grant of £406 was awarded to help with furniture and hospital travel costs.
 
Following 3 months of casework the team increased the client’s weekly income by £58, with debts of £242 cleared.  The client was able to purchase some furniture and pay his fuel bills for a few months. He has since found a more suitable property and is planning to move into it.
 

Research and Campaign News

In March we issued a press release on some shocking problems faced by disabled clients attending ESA medical assessments. This focused on difficulties caused by closure of centres, the physical and financial hardship caused by having to travel long distances, and the lack of properly trained staff. Our R&C Coordinator spoke on local radio - SplashFM News – to raise awareness of the issues and explain how Citizens Advice could help with claims and appeals.
 
A report has been sent to CenSus -  the Central Sussex Partnership who in 2015/16 provided the Revenues and Benefits service for Adur, Horsham and Mid Sussex District Councils – addressing problems with the quality of service received by our clients.  We have asked for a response by early May.

The main problems were difficulty in communications with CenSus, errors in processing claims, and delays.  Many people have told us that they receive confusing letters which worry them. It is often hard to get through to Census by telephone, both on the part of our clients and by the Citizens Advisers who are trying to help to sort out their problems. We have also seen cases where CenSus staff have not communicated effectively with other agencies in order to establish the facts of a claimant’s situation.
We have started a research project on self-employment, exploring people’s experiences relating to: tax and in-work benefits; ‘bogus’ self-employment, where people are actually working for an employer but not being given proper employment rights (including the National Living Wage); and access to pensions advice and provision.  We are analysing local job adverts, and an online survey is about to be launched via social media.
 
Across Adur & Worthing, during the year April 2015 to March 2016, we had identified a total of 349 separate client issues related to homelessness, during initial ‘Gateway’ interviews. A report is being prepared for the Local Authorities and similar reports are planned for Horsham and Crawley.
 
Planned projects include: research into letting agencies’ compliance with the law; analysis of problems in making and managing claims for Universal Credit; and problems in accessing services for those with mental health issues.
 

Service news

Adur Service Changes

Central and South Sussex Citizens Advice (CaSSCA) is to transform the way in which it serves Adur District users in order to better meet their changing needs.

While demand for advice services in Adur District (Lancing and Shoreham) is growing, there is an increasing trend for clients to use the larger centres in the area; Worthing and Shoreham. This is based on convenience. Clients are visiting the larger towns to access services and increased employment opportunities, and they are also visiting the  Citizens Advice centres in those towns to resolve the issues affecting their lives.
 
CaSSCA has made the following adjustments to provide the service that our clients want. Firstly, we have increased the opening hours at the new Shoreham Centre, which will now open 5 days a week for walk in face-to-face appointments. Secondly, from June 2016, CaSSCA will open a new Lancing outreach service for 2 days a week. Based at the Citizens Advice Centre at Lancing Parish Hall, we will provide an Information Hub to assist clients find information to resolve their issue. However, for more in-depth enquiries, the service will provide 4-6 appointments a week for Lancing residents to sit with a trained adviser. This will best meet current demand, and there will be capacity to increase service levels if necessary. 
 
CaSSCA is now a member of the Fundraising Standards Board (FSRB)

Following recent publicity about some charities' fundraising activities, the whole charitable sector is under greater scrutiny.
 
Joining The Fundraising Standards Board gives our supporters confidence that CaSSCA is acting in accordance with the high standards set by the FSRB.

There is a ‘give with confidence’ logo which will be added to our website and other printed materials as we have them reprinted. There is also a certificate to be displayed in all centres.

All staff and volunteers taking part in fundraising activities need to be aware of the Code. There are four simple points to take into account:
  • Following the FSRB standards;
  • Communicating our membership of the FSRB to supporters;
  • Using the FSRB tick logo in our promotional material;
  • Managing client complaints effectively.
More information about our obligations can be found at the FSRB website.

Please also familiarise yourselves with the Code of Fundraising Practice to understand the standards we must follow.
Outreach laptops
 


We have received new laptops for our outreach work. The powerful, lightweight computers will equip our advisers to better help clients across Central and South Sussex who can't come into our advice centres.

Joan McClatchey, an outreach adviser based at Crawley was delighted. "I am so pleased to have this light and speedy machine. The old one was so heavy - I had to use the lift to get it up and downstairs!"
 
Welcomes, Goodbyes and Congratulations

We would like to send a very warm welcome to our newest volunteers who have joined us since March:

Shamime, Gosia & Lydia in Crawley
Maggie in East Grinstead
Samantha & Dale in Horsham
Russell, Val, Dorothy, Martine & Suzanne in Shoreham
Delia, Barry & Rose in Worthing

 
We couldn’t offer any of our services without the generosity of time and effort that our volunteers give us, so thank you to each and every one of them!
 
We are always looking for volunteers to deliver a variety of roles in all of our advice centres. No previous experience or qualifications are necessary as we provide full training and support. We particularly need people on our new opening day of Thursdays in Shoreham. If you think you can help, please get in touch at volunteer@westsussexcab.org.uk.

Goodbye to Sophie RiderPaulina Posiadly and Jo Bartlett. Thank you for all you have done for CaSSCA in your many years of service, and we wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors. You will be missed.

Best wishes to Tony BevisTony Hepburn and Sandra Newbon, gateway assessors at Horsham who have embarked on the adviser training course. Congratulations also to Ita Crawford and Malcolm Hind of Burgess Hill, who qualified as advisers.

Well done to Heather Sickelmore of LancingStuart Ferguson and Joanne Broom of Haywards HeathStuart McFarlane and John Day of ShorehamStephen Kew of Burgess Hill and Peter McKinney and Alan Edwards of Horsham, who have all been signed off as qualified gateway assessors. 

Jackie CharmanTerry Bennis and Hayes Dockrell at HorshamMandi Lee at East Grinstead and Caroline Taylor at Shoreham, are all now doing solo interviews as gateway assessors. Caroline's first ever client as a solo interviewer was so pleased with the help she gave, he emailed in with a message of thanks! We're sure he'll be the first of many satisfied clients. 
New Chair and Trustees  

After 3 years of commitment and dedication to CaSSCA, John Rutherford has stepped down as Chair and trustee. Our thanks to John for all of his hard work and we wish him well in his retirement.

Welcome to Paul Robinson, our new chair, who has been an active trustee on the board for the last 9 months.We also have 3 new board members to welcome to CassCA, Caroline Nicholls, Richard Smillie and Emma Okada. Together they bring a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience that will add to the strength of the organisation and we all look forward to working with them in the future.
A volunteer writes:

I thought I’d drop you a line with regards my training and development at the Citizens Advice Bureau - where I have been now volunteering for three years.

The training programme that is issued is of a very high standard. It is both practical based and theory orientated with each step signed off. Once this is done you can progress to whatever level you wish. My other working role is with leading company registrars in Worthing. I deal with specialised tasks of most of ft100 companies within very strict compliancy codes of practice for incoming and outbound services. This has led me to a career course in law with the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx). My determination to succeed has also pointed me to become a member of the Chichester Branch Committee.

The reason for me mentioning this development in my career is that I recently attended for CILEx a careers open day at Queen Mary’s College in Basingstoke. This is known as the “Inspire the future” campaign for all future students of law to consider studying part time or even apprenticeships to qualify in law rather than racking up loads of debt. I advised to become involved in the community and learn while working, contributing to the charity of the people.

My career guidance and advice to students always referred me back to the CAB training which has been bedrock to me. The whole concept of law is principally based on laws of “equity”, dealing with the community as a whole. It all ties into my work with the CAB, CILEx and Registrars. The CAB training to deal with clients from all walks of life gives the student a wider knowledge of people that cannot be taught from a book. As a receptionist this is an essential skill, and writing up the basic case notes on the petra system. After this we have “gateway training” to actively give guidance to clients to resolve issues. Finally, advisor training leads to a very proactive role which gives a student of law a firm foundation to his training. It will be an invaluable life experience for any student of law.

I will shortly be sitting my final exam in company law and I will graduate. However, my thoughts are always with the CAB training which has given me the confidence and knowledge to progress in my legal career. It is full credit to the charity of the year for having the time and patience to develop my law skills further.

Regards,

Mark Maund (ACILEx).


Mark is a volunteer in Worthing


Making a complaint about an NHS service can be complicated, lengthy and stressful. Our ICAS team - Independent Complaints Advocacy Service, provided under the Healthwatch West Sussex umbrella - can provide free advocacy to support you through the process. You can now download a host of self-help tools to assist you when writing an NHS complaints letter, on the ICAS page of the Healthwatch West Sussex website. These include a template letter and hints and tips on what to include.
 
Conference 2016

CaSSCA is planning a conference, to be held this autumn to thank volunteers and staff for their continued hard work and also to discuss the future and how CassCa can face the challenges ahead. Our previous conference, celebrating the 75th birthday of Citizens Advice, was a great success, and we hope to be able to make this one even better! We are hoping that as many people as possible will join us in coming together from across the organisation to celebrate the successes together, share experiences, and provide feedback to senior management and trustees with new ideas and suggestions for the future.
 
We would like some help to plan and organise this event, to ensure the success of the day and a working group is being set up to meet on a regular basis, where you can contribute with your own and colleagues suggestions to the content of the day. The first meeting is to be held in the training room at the Burgess Hill Centre on Tuesday 24th May, at 10.00 am - 12.00 pm. 
 
We do hope you can join us. Please email Dipesh.Palana@westsussexcab.org.uk if you are able to attend. 
Getting out and about
 
We attended the Worthing Pensioners' Fair on the 22nd April. It was a great opportunity to showcase the help and advice we can offer older people in the community and promote the benefits of volunteering for Citizens Advice. Lee Furlong was interviewed by BBC South Today about last year's changes to state pensions



We had a stall at the Haywards Heath Spring Festival, where we spoke to families about our work and volunteering opportunities. We also got to enjoy some Spanish dancing. 
 
We’re looking forward to the Worthing Lions Festival, which we’ll be attending on Sunday 24th July.  If you’d like to help at our stand, or you could donate a prize to our raffle, please drop us a line at fundraising@westsussexcab.org.uk.
  
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