Strengthening the bureaux network
The bureaux network gives advice to nearly two million people annually, and this requires bureaux to continually adapt in order to meet new challenges and competition. During 2007/08 we spent £11.3 million on supporting bureaux in their work.
Last year we said that we would work in partnership with bureaux to deliver our strategy for the future. After consultation a Service Development Plan was produced to illustrate how Citizens Advice and the network can work in partnership to maximise delivery.
A major restructure within Citizens Advice saw the formation of a new division to provide support to bureaux. Changes included the creation of Bureaux Direct. This service will be the central point of contact for bureaux and will provide the tools to enable bureaux to manage effectively.
Citizens Advice offers a wide range of support services to bureaux, including:
- online support for bureau managers
- support and training for advisers
- training and development for all bureau staff
- IT support
- help and guidance on LSC contracts.
The Citizens Advice service is unique in auditing the advice given by bureaux to ensure it is accurate and consistent wherever it is given. Citizens Advice supports bureaux and encourages improvements in advice provision.
Last year we said we would continue to support bureaux so that they can become an effective first point of contact for discrimination advice. We provided support to bureaux in applying for EHRC grants, and 20 bureaux were successful. Citizens Advice also secured funding to produce and distribute an equality and human rights toolkit. We continue to participate in regional events working with bureaux to develop understanding and expertise.
Citizens Advice will continue to work in partnership with bureaux to help influence the LSC in shaping the future direction of the legal aid reform programme. We will work together to help local authorities develop quality, local, integrated services. We will also promote the value of bureaux services to local authorities whilst ensuring that they recognise the risks inherent in the current design of CLACs and CLANs.
Over the last few years the Government has been working to reform the delivery of public services. Citizens Advice encourages bureaux to work in partnership with their local authority to provide timely and accessible advice. This focuses on outcomes and delivery through better partnership working.
Last year we said we would encourage bureaux to use the ‘gateway’ assessment system to streamline the advice process more effectively. The assessment approach is being actively promoted and over 30 per cent of bureaux now use a full gateway assessment on first contact, with a further 20 per cent using a diagnostic interview. Promoting the use of the gateway model is central to the new Citizens Advice service strategy and is key to our access programme.