Most people will have heard of the charity Citizens Advice, but few of us fully understand the range of expertise and quality of professional support that this service provides to people of all ages facing all manner of challenges.
When Eynsham Parish Council learnt more of the fantastic work of our local branch, Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire (CAWO), we were moved to approve their application for a grant of £200 to support the high costs of providing their important services. Indeed, their services are only getting more important as more people struggle with rising costs and high inflation.
CAWO’s general advice service, based in Marlborough Lane, Witney, is largely funded by West Oxfordshire District Council and provides telephone, web-chat and face-to-face support services. This takes the form of expert, professional advice and is available for all who need help with a range of issues, from fuel debt and rent arrears to relationship and family breakdown.
The national charity was founded over 80 years ago to support the fledgling social support services in the UK but remains just as crucial as ever. The West Oxfordshire branch was formed nearly 50 years ago to meet local needs. As Teresa Archer, CAWO Chief Officer notes, “We have seen how devastating the impacts of the current cost of living crisis have been for families that have never experienced such hardship before. We continue to campaign for policy change on many issues, and our staff and volunteers continue to do all they can to guide and support people to maximise their income, minimise expenditure and negotiate with creditors where needed.”
The positive impact of CAWO is enormous. In the past financial year, CAWO helped 215 clients in the Eynsham and Cassington ward, resulting in an income gain of £183,424 (total) and over £67,000 worth of debts were written off. Across West Oxfordshire, over 3,800 people were helped over the same period, generating almost £2 million in additional annual income for the District.
These results require large investment. CAWO supervisors are professional, experienced advisers who require training and resources such as reference books and computers to ensure they have the latest advice and research to share. “It costs approximately £210,000 annually to run just this part of the service, and of course we run many other services too, targeting specific individuals,” Teresa explains. “We really welcome grants from town and parish councils. These greatly contribute to raising the funds we need to continue to operate.”
In addition to their paid staff, the charity also relies on the work of volunteers who take on responsibilities such as answering calls on our local AdviceLine. If any of our residents have the time and are keen to give back to our community while also learning a lot of about this sector, we would encourage you to consider getting involved. Full training is provided. More information is available on the website (www.citizensadvicewestoxon.org) or by emailing the recruitment manager Samantha using firstname.lastname@example.org
Perhaps more importantly, if any of our residents are struggling and think CAWO could help support them, Teresa and her colleagues join us in urging you to reach out. “Citizens Advice is truly here for everyone,” Teresa stresses. “We are seeing more and more people of all ages who are coming to us for help for the first time. Many of these people are employed, have never experienced debt before and just don't know where to start. Some are just managing but looking for ways to improve their budgeting. Our team are impartial, professional and confidential so please don’t be worried about getting in touch.”