Harlow CAB Report 2009

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Although I have only been Chair of Harlow CAB for a short time, I have been associated with Citizens Advice for a number of years, however it is the same story throughout, our clients’ needs outweigh the time and resources available to meet the demand. This is something we just have to manage.

The demand is because of the pressures of life, debt, redundancies, personal relationship problems, which in some instances combine into one huge problem that is brought to the bureau, and because our service is free and impartial this is the reason the pressure on our service increases by the day.
The Volunteer Advisers within our service are totally committed to the clients’ needs, under quite often harrowing circumstances and with precious little resources, and Harlow is no exception.
My job with the Board of Directors in conjunction with the Manager is to obtain the resources and the facilities for the Volunteer Advisers and Specialist to do their job, and relieve some of the pressures.
There is no one solution but a combination of actions that added together will ease the problems.  Part of this will be looking to work with other bureaux and likeminded accredited organisations to supply a more enhanced service.  Also we will need more space to see our clients, accommodate specialists and to give us training facilities.  Combined with a new way of working via ‘Gateway’ where we assess the client’s need for either an in-house appointment with a generalist adviser or specialist, or refer to other agencies, this should alleviate some of the problems.

As well as all this we are also looking to reduce the numbers coming into the bureau by training people and obtaining funding to go out into the community to give advice to try and pre-empt some of the above difficulties.
This presents quite a challenge in the coming years for all those involved with Harlow bureau, and I am looking forward to the challenge and I am confident that all this is achievable.
I would like to take this opportunity of thanking Nick Prince for stepping in as Interim Bureau Manager, a job he has carried out very successfully, and also for organising this AGM.  I would also thank all those working within the bureau. As with all organisations it is only possible to achieve a common goal by working as a team.
Finally I would like to thank the Trustee Board and Ann Booth from CitA for their support, and Harlow Council for their support and funding.





Brian Smith


Page 1  

Who would be an Interim Manager?


I started at Harlow CAB in March 2009 as an interim manager, to “help the bureau through a difficult time”.
Upon arrival, I soon discovered that here was a typical bureau, in an area of high deprivation, struggling valiantly to meet the great demands brought forth by the public.
In addition to an extremely high community need for advice, the bureau was also facing uncertainties over its funding.
I was incredibly impressed to find that the bureau staff and volunteers were a very small group of brave souls - who had been performing miracles for the community of Harlow for some considerable time!
Due to unforeseen circumstances, Harlow CAB has not had a Bureau Manager for over two years and this has meant considerable extra work and responsibility for the three part time staff in post.
Thankfully, the three people concerned - Jean, Joan and Liz have combined CAB experience of over 60 years. (they won’t thank me for revealing that fact - as they insist that they are all under 25 years old!).
“The Harlow 3” have, in turn, relied on the amazing fortitude and commitment of the volunteer advisers - who carry out practically all of the advice work, as well as providing administrative support.
Our volunteers are a mixture of experienced and new recruits - and all of them give their time, expertise and commitment to the community, without asking for anything in return – except for the reward of helping others to cope with life’s difficulties more effectively!
The very demanding work of the volunteer advisers is not helped by the need to carry out the client work in very cramped conditions, owing to the restricted space available at The Advice Centre.


Whilst we would love to be better resourced at CAB, to enable us to help even more people, we are fully aware that it’s far from easy to raise funds or even to attract people with the time and expertise that’s  needed to work on fundraising.

“I soon discovered that here was a typical bureau, in an area of high deprivation, struggling valiantly to meet the great demands brought forth by the public”


We are fortunate indeed to have a group of voluntary “friends” at the bureau who do a fantastic job already in raising funds, through a variety of activities that are featured elsewhere in this Report.
Equally, we are extremely grateful to Harlow Council, who provide the lion’s share of the financial support which is available to the bureau, in the form of a annual grant, without which, the bureau would simply not exist!
So, in answer to the question, “who would be an interim manager?” the answer is ME – I thoroughly enjoyed the time that I was able to spend at Harlow CAB and it was a real privilege to work with a band of people who are true Community Superstars!


Nick Prince
Interim Manager
Harlow CAB

Page 2



It’s going to be a busy day.  There are already 15 people queuing, half an hour before we are due to open, and only 3 rooms and 3 advisers on duty.  I join the rest of the team who are talking about friendship and offer that there is nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with chocolate!  Then the serious stuff begins.  The Advice Session Supervisor gives a short briefing about recent changes that could affect our advice or tactics, and we’re ready for the clients.

My first client is a woman in her 50’s whose drawn features suggests she has a serious problem.  She tells me that her husband has just died at home unexpectedly – she starts to cry, I offer sympathy and a tissue – she says that she is numb and doesn’t know what to do next.  I check that the emergency services have attended; they have. 

I gently probe her circumstances: she is working but has not been in for the last two days (there is an income stream).  She has no children (no dependants, but no immediate family to share her burden) and her husband left no Will.  She and her husband own their own house and the mortgage has been paid off (no immediate threat to her home), but there are some credit card debts and a small bank loan, she thinks, in her husband’s name.  She is worried that bailiffs will come round to seize her furniture if she doesn’t keep up the repayments.  I reassure her that that cannot happen but add that she will need to tell her husband’s creditors that he has died.  I say that most lenders are sympathetic and helpful in these circumstances

Together, we draw up an action plan, and I use AdviserNet to make sure that we have covered everything.  As a young widow, she may be entitled to a Bereavement Grant, which will help with the funeral costs; I arrange for DWP to send her an application pack. 

I suspect that she will not remember everything we have discussed, so I give her a leaflet of what to do when someone dies.  She looks relieved and manages a smile; she says she feels back in control.  [THIS is what it’s all about; I feel a warm sense of achievement]

“It’s going to be a busy day.  There are already 15 people queuing, and only 3 rooms and 3 advisers on duty”


My second client is a middle-aged man who, I suspect, has learning difficulties (so he may be vulnerable).  Repairs carried out to his rented house have badly damaged his carpet.  He has contacted the landlord on a number of occasions but has been fobbed off and nothing has been done.  He shows me a picture of the damage.

Under the Sale of Goods & Services Act, AdviserNet confirms that the client has a right to repair or compensation if the work was not carried out to a reasonable standard.  I tell the client this and suggest that the Bureau writes to the landlord to remind him of this consumer protection.  The client agrees and leaves feeling that he has achieved something at last.

My third client is angry that he has had to wait 3 ½ hours and says we should be better organised.  I apologise for his delay and explain that we are all volunteers, doing our best for clients with the resources available to us.  He is mollified.  He wants to know if his employer can stop paying him for his lunch breaks without his agreement.  I run through the relevant item in AdviserNet with him, which suggests that they can.  His only real sanction is to resign.  The ASS also suggests that a group of like-minded employees could try to negotiate with the employer.  He thinks this is worth trying.  He puts some money into our box as he leaves.
A draining morning, but I think we have helped to make a difference.

Hilary Jones

Page 3


Recently I needed some advice on a couple of family matters and decided that CAB may be able to help. Knowing nothing of the organisation I visited the advice centre, with some trepidation - arriving at 9am (1st in the queue). I met with a volunteer adviser, who gave me good information, (and it was what I had hoped to hear). 9 months later, I received equally good accurate advice on a different topic.


And I decided to apply to be an Adviser. After bribing my only 2 friends to give me a “walking on water” reference, I was accepted for training! On my first morning I encountered a seemingly “chaotic” office where I was introduced to the mountain of training modules. I was given a couple of packs to get started on. I was also booked in to observe an experienced volunteer adviser at work.

First observation session duly arrived and I was very surprised at how direct and assertive, the adviser was. Was I sure I could be that direct? But very soon realised that this approach was needed with some, but not all clients. During the second, and subsequent, observation sessions I have realised that a wide range of personal techniques are used by different advisors (dependant on their personal characteristics). All of which seem to work well for the clients. So perhaps I too could meet the challenge? The mountain of paperwork training is proving manageable and the office chaos is just reflective of a very busy and pressured environment. I am now looking forward to the 4 day training session and later doing some supervised interviews. I have been amazed at the VERY diverse group of advisers, supervisors and office backup staff and their obvious commitment to the work. What a lovely group to work with. Every one of them is most supportive of the trainees, who I am sure must be a hindrance at times.


Reg Golder Trainee Adviser

Page 4

I am delighted to report once again that 2008-09 has been a financially successful year. “Quizzin” is still as popular as ever and the event we held in October 2008 raised a magnificent £547.12. We are planning another “Quizzin” event for early 2010 so watch this space!

Our thanks go to Ron Ainsworth who helped us raise £377 at the Charity Car Park with matched funding from Barclays this was doubled to a grand total of £754. Sadly, we have been unsuccessful in securing a date for the Charity Car Park for the coming financial year. To compensate for this in partnership with the Rotary Club we will be holding a race night in the future, this will be a first for our band of volunteers and we hope you will all come along.

Doves again proved popular and with the commitment and energy shown by Mark Chambers, Michelle Dorling and our other volunteers we again raised in excess of £500. We will again be selling the personally dedicated Doves starting with lighting of the tree in the Town Centre.


The 100 club ably administered by Jill Walton continues to bring in a steady income.

Last year friends donated a much needed £6,000 to the bureau. Friends of Harlow CAB are a small band of volunteers that work extremely hard to provide the additional items required by the bureau and many of them are also advisers and staff. We would dearly love to expand this group and are actively seeking new members, if you would like further information about  Friends, 100 club or the race night please call the bureau on (01279 430767)

My thanks to all the volunteers that give their time so freely to Friends of Harlow CAB,

Mark Chambers,  Joan Burton, Chris Burton, Liz Horner, Denis Briggs, Jean Franks, Jill Walton, Michelle Dorling, Ron Ainsworth.

Ann Nutt, Chair

Board of Trustees


Chair                                                   Albert Watson

Treasurer                                           Sheenagh Parsons
Other Trustees                                  Jenny Holland retired 15 January 2009
Julieth Dalley  retired  21 October 2008
Brain Smith elected 15 January 2009
Tim Carter  elected 21 October 2008
Hugh McCoy elected   15 January 2009
June Warburton elected 15 January 2009

Harlow DC Representative               Cllr Chris Millington
Board Secretary                                Bureau Manager
Volunteer Representatives               Lesley Davison and Ann Nutt
Paid Staff Representative                 Jean Franks
Minute Secretary                               Isabelle Langridge
Accountants                                      Price Bailey
Legal Advisers                                  Attwaters




Staff and Volunteers

Bureau Staff

Interim Managers                                N. Prince
G. Thompson*

Advice Services Manager                   J. Franks

Advice Session Supervisors               L. Horner
L. Horsley

Outreach Advisers

Community Drug & Alcohol Team
P. Houghton

Gateway Centre
R. Day

Secretary                                             J. Burton

IT Support                                           R. Day


Volunteers give, on average, one day a week to the bureau plus extra time to train and attend meetings.  They come from all sections of the community and from varying work backgrounds.  Their time, knowledge and skills are an extremely valuable resource.

R. Ainsworth*

M. Harris (trainee)

A. North*

J. Bannister*

E. Hopwood (trainee)

A. Nutt

J. Branston (trainee)

H. Jones

J, Pascovith

D. Briggs

R. Kelly

K. Protheroe

J. Brothers*

P. Larkin

M.  Rigden

D. Brown

D. Lee *

B. Taylor*

V. Chan (trainee)

M Lowe*

L. Vaill (trainee)*

M. Dain

M. McBride (trainee)*

P. Watson

L. Davison

B. Menzies

B Young

A. Delali-Yevunya*

D Narendra


H. Ferguson (trainee)



* left during 2008-09


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