I have made no secret of my respect and admiration for the voluntary and charitable sector in Kensington. Without it, we would be lost – and this has been particularly noticeable since the Grenfell Tower fire.
The Kensington and Chelsea Social Council (KCSC) is an organisation that has come even more to the fore for example and supported the voluntary sector – also acting as a bridge between residents and the voluntary and statutory sectors. A recognition that residents are determined to be listened to. There are many others, including the faith organisations that not only reacted rapidly but have evolved and developed services since.
I had the pleasure of meeting up with Tina Neessen the other day, until recently the Grenfell Advice Project Manager for the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). She admits that working with ‘survivors’ from Grenfell had been ‘humbling’.
I know that Tina and her team have worked tirelessly since the Grenfell tragedy, going into action immediately, providing advice and information – so vital in the immediate aftermath but that need has not diminished. I have seen them in action.
I asked Tina, what work was currently needed for survivors and those generally in the community. She explained that giving advice on benefits particularly now as there had been changes in payments and rents were not being covered in the same way. It was an important part of their work at the CAB to ensure that all people received what they were entitled to.
The extensive service provided by CAB – an organisation we have in the borough in two locations North Kensington and Chelsea – was boosted in the immediate aftermath of Grenfell by the addition of UCL Law students working as trained volunteers in the evenings and weekends. They responded with speed but also sensitivity – realising that not everyone wanted to go to the Curve or other advice centres but wanted to see someone where they were staying. A ‘go out and find them’ policy was adopted and adhered to.
Working with ‘survivors’ and those affected requires far more than one visit. Their lives have been affected in many ways. It also requires liaising with other statutory agencies and voluntary and charitable organisations.
In a recent annual review found online, it reveals that over the previous year the organisation had provided one to one free and confidential advice to almost 10,000 clients through outreach in the community and health centres, Wormwood Scrubs prison as well as online and over the phone – dealing with 15,300 matters, assisted with £1.5 million worth of personal debt, won £334,348 for clients in employment cases and increase benefits income by £2.7 million.
Demands on the service continue to increase. Child poverty has soared to record levels in the UK and an ever-increasing number of families in our community and elsewhere rely on food banks to survive. Other reasons for using the CAB include fuel poverty, rent arrears and other household debts, health or age-related problems and the ongoing effect of radical changes to welfare benefits.
The CAB is only able to do its work because of the commitment and teamwork of skilled and knowledgeable staff with volunteers and its Trustee Board. As a charity, it is obviously dependent on funding from supporters and these include the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, City Bridge Trust, Comic Relief, Age UK Kensington and Chelsea, the NHS, HM Prison Service, Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Big Lottery Fund and the Campden Charities.
For more information on CAB
0300 330 1174
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