I will be cycling in this 100 mile event in the Citizens Advice team, with donations going to Esher Citizens Advice where I am a volunteer adviser. We start at The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, travel through London and on to the Surrey Hills before returning to the Mall and Buckingham Palace.
With a small management team and around 40 experienced volunteer advisers, Esher Citizens Advice has been providing free information, advice and support to those in its surrounding communities for over 40 years. People come with all sorts of issues. In the last year over 5,000 clients were helped with more than 13,000 individual issues including money, benefits, housing and homelessness, employment, consumer and many other problems.
The bureau provides a generalist advice service, but also deploys small specialist teams in areas such as debt management and disability benefits where there is a need to keep abreast of increasingly complex financial and/or legal issues. Disability benefits provide a topical example of how it reacts to clients’ needs.
Changes to the law on disability benefits have led to a surge over the last year for support and advice on the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) now that Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being phased out. Many of those required to switch to PIP have lost their benefits and sometimes their vitally needed Motability cars. However, in the large majority of cases the bureau has helped these clients to appeal successfully and have their benefits restored, thereby making a very real difference to the quality of life of often very seriously disabled people.
Esher Citizens Advice receives no funding from central government. Traditionally, the local authority has provided much of the bureau’s funding but, as in other parts of the country, broader financial pressures on local government are now raising a serious question mark over whether the existing services can continue to be provided without additional sources of funding. Any donation that you feel able to make would therefore be very much appreciated.