AGM 2010  
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Report for year ending 31 March 2010


Who are our Clients



Harlow Citizens Advice Bureau has been in operation for 54 years and we have seen an increasing demand for our service, which we have been building our capacity to meet. We helped on average 2000 clients with over 5000 issues. The split of issues is shown on the above chart.
Over the year around 11% of client enquiries were transferred to specialists either within the Citizens Advice or other organisations within the Legal Services scheme.

Above are the actual recorded figures. There has been a significant increase especially in benefits and finance. There are many more clients provided with assisted information, signposted and referred that are not recorded via our CASE reporting system.

Although the majority of clients visit our Bureau via our drop in session, we also have many enquiries via telephone and at our Outreach service at the Gateway Centre. Advisors also assist a number of elderly and disabled clients by visiting them in their own homes.

Chairman’s Report

I have been involved with the CAB at Harlow for the last 2 years. It has been obvious to all that there is an ever-increasing need for advice to the people of Harlow and I have noticed the enthusiasm of the staff and volunteers to grow and extend our service.

One of the most essential parts in private business is to identify a human need, match that need with the right product and then you will be a millionaire.

The exception to this is that as a charity giving advice like Citizens Advice Bureau, the need for advice is vast yet the funding small.

WHY - Because our advice is FREE to the clients therefore the funding must come from elsewhere.

To obtain funding the funders need to know three things. Is there a need? Do we give value for money? Is the advice given up to standard?  We at CAB Harlow can prove all three:

  1. Is there a need? - With our information recording system (CASE); the constant supply of clients, and the surveys we have carried out we can prove the need. 
  2. Value for money? - 85% of those engaged in CAB Harlow are volunteers. Our unit cost per client is very low (funding from the Harlow Council equates to 65p per resident per year for the people of Harlow). 
  3. Is our advice up to standard? - We are the only advice giving organisation that has it advice audited.


The problem is we are not fundraisers we are advice givers, but if we don’t raise funds our clients, the people of Harlow and surrounding area, lose out. This is unfair.


Therefore we ask the Local and County councils and Local and national funders to:-

  • Continue to invest in Citizens Advice Bureau Harlow for quality of advice
  • Offer long term and flexible funding packages
  • Be open to new methods of working with us, and organisations
  • Lead by example by helping as us to obtain funding for the people of Harlow.


We will at Harlow Citizens Advice Bureau offer:-

  • To place our clients’ needs first
  • Give Quality Advice that meets the high audit requirements
  • Work with our clients to offer the best opening times and facilities.
  • Increase the range of advice needed.
  • Continue and re-assess and improve the value for money given.
  • Work with the community in improving the area in which people live
  • Improve peoples’ health by helping them to reduce debt and to assist in solving their problems.
  • Support vulnerable people by working with other organisations to ensure the young, the elderly and disabled obtain their place within the community.
  • Invest in people with training and education, to help improve their potential.               
  • Be more innovative in pursuing new partnerships and new ways to deliver advice.



So what do we do for the future?

To try and ensure the people of Harlow do not lose out we at Harlow Citizens Advice Bureau are going to be client driven offering them what they need with regard to advice, opening hours and facilities not what we can offer.
We will do this by involving our volunteers, staff, funders and our clients in formulating our strategy. This will pose a great challenge as well as an opportunity for us.

We need to continue to give value for money demonstrating effectiveness and efficiency in the provision of services and activities. Value for money is an important core element underpinning the future of CAB Harlow, and is part of the Board’s objectives.

We will at CAB Harlow, with other organisations, make public investment go further.  Far from sitting like beggars with hands outstretched we will make a strong case for funding by working together offering a range of advice, skills and services, interlinked by the partnership of like-minded organisations and delivered through outlets to suit the clients.  This will give added value to all the organisations and clients and will have a major impact on the quality of the life of the community and individuals especially those that are socially isolated and are in areas of highest need.

To make progress we will need to change and for this to work we must find the will to make it happen.  If we value our organisation and believe in what we do and want them to survive Board and Managers need to rethink and adjust the way they operate and be prepared to give and take, and find a way of working.

We all need to start to think differently; why are we restricting our opening hours? We should be thinking of sharing locations and have opening times 8am till late.  It’s got to be possible!   

We all know there are tough times ahead but I am convinced that by working together we can make a positive and constructive contribution to delivering quality advice and a range of services to the people of Harlow. The Board and I are looking forward to the challenge and working with other organisations.


PLEASE NOTE we are now open for business and ready to tender for projects.


And finally I would like to say the giving of time to people who are in need or vulnerable is for most people a basic human value.

Thank you to the volunteers, staff and Trustees at Harlow CAB for all the work you have contributed to the people of Harlow.

Brian Smith
Chairman of Harlow CAB




Trustee Profiles


Chair – Brian Smith

Born in London, I moved to Basildon in the 50’s. Served an engineering apprenticeship, proceeded to Design Engineer, Sales Director then Managing Director of a large public company. A Board member of a Housing Association and Chairman of B.C Management Co.Ltd. I was also a member of the Institute of WM and Institute of WP with various qualifications in management. I ran my own company for 10 years in Essex and Norfolk with my wife and was able to retire at 50 after selling both companies.
Married with 2 children, I have been involved with CAB for approximately 6 years. Started with Wickford CAB which is now part of BBW CAB Ltd and now Harlow CAB. My involvement with the CAB has been a very enlightening experience and has shown me that it is such an essential service which is so underfunded. The service relies on the goodwill and the dedication of volunteers from Advisors to Board Members.


Trustee - Rev. Albert Watson

A rector of Tye Green, Harlow, I was born on Tyneside. A grammar school boy, I began work on the local paper and worked 23 years as a journalist, mostly on the subject of showbiz, until God decided otherwise and I was ordained in the Church of England.
Married for well over 40 years to Pam, who is a CAB advisor, we have two children fast approaching middle age and five grandchildren meandering towards adolescence. Hobbies are keeping fit, swimming, reading, cinema, all forms of music, and telling people about God's love.


Trustee - Hugh McCoy

I was born in Dudley and was educated at the local Grammar School. Joined the Merchant Navy in 1957 as a Navigating Officer Cadet. In 1965 I came ashore and joined Gelatley Hankey a London trading Company and was posted to Saudi Arabia as Lloyds Agent. After two years, returned to London, joining the shipbroking company H. Clarkson where I became Chairman and, eventually, also Chairman of the Baltic Exchange and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, where I became President in 1994.
I am now retired but retain Directorships with the British Shipowners Hadley Shipping and the Bermudian Group Transpetrol. I am an Honorary Member of the Council of Lloyds Register and a Freeman of the City of London. I was a Generalist Advisor at the Brentwood CAB from 1999 and became a Specialist Employment Advisor in 2002 until I retired in 2005. I have lived in Brentwood for 31 years and am married to Margaret with 2 sons.


Trustee - Sheenagh Parsons

I became a Trustee at Harlow CAB in 1995 when I joined Attwaters solicitors to further my career and specialise in Personal Injury Law. I was a latecomer to the profession returning to study when the youngest of my two children started school in 1983. Qualified as a solicitor in 1991, I trained with a practice in Stevenage before taking up a post as Head of Litigation in a London firm. I then moved to Attwaters, became a Partner in 1997 and was appointed Head of the Personal Injury Department, and Training Partner.  In 2008 I was asked to be Managing Partner and continue in post to date. Although I advise on all types of accident claims, my specialisms are in cases involving serious or catastrophic injury and/or a high degree of complexity. I have successfully recovered large monetary awards for claimants and help to put in place treatment programmes to aid their recovery. I currently chair the Harlow Court Users Group and am a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers.

Trustee – Tim Carter

I am a qualified solicitor working in Harlow. I attended Staffordshire University originally as a business student but subsequently qualified in law and completed my masters degree in law a few years ago. I have had various jobs to support me through university, from bar work to site management on a railway site! When I finished university, I worked as a garage door fitter before securing a training contract at a legal 500 city firm. I am very conscious that most legal services are costly and that every community needs support. During my time at university the CAB helped me on a number of issues and I valued their support. The CAB is a support service but in itself needs support to continue; because of this, I help as much as I can as a trustee and legal advisor.



Friends of Harlow CAB


This year has been an exciting year for the Friends of Harlow CAB.


  • Despite dreadful weather members of Friends braved the snow and on a number of days leading up to Christmas could be seen selling the Doves in Broad Walk. My thanks to all who turned up to help, support or just to chat with us on these days.
  • With the help of the advisers we again staffed the College car park and this helped to swell the funds of Friends.
  • Our 100 Club continues to bring in a regular monthly income and once again our thanks to Jill Walton who administers the 100 Club.


Harlow CAB elected a new Board and Chairman last year and with the bureau now becoming a limited company the Friends of Harlow CAB had to decide whether to become an independent Charity or a sub group of the Board.  Following discussions with the members a vote was taken and it was agreed that Friends would become a sub group of the board but the Chair of Friends would continue attending the main board meetings.

Future event: We were unable to hold our annual “Quizzin Nite” event in 2009 but we hope all our regular teams will be supporting us in November 2010!

We will be launching the new Friends of Harlow CAB in the New Year and would ask you all to attend the inaugural meeting to shape the work of Friends for 2011.


Ann Nutt
Chair Friends of Harlow CAB







Bureau Manager’s report



I began at Harlow Citizens Advice Bureau in January 2010. My previous years of management were within the hotel and aviation industry. Of course it was daunting at first, joining a bureau that had volunteers and staff with many years experience plus facing two audits in February and April 2010. I quickly began to realise that there was a very close similarity to airline customers and bureau clients especially when it came to clients’ impression and delivery of service.

Service Delivery

The service delivery here in Harlow as always been very high and very professional especially with clients. The volunteers, staff and management clearly practice the aims and principles of Citizens Advice and ensure consistently that, first and foremost, the client needs are met.
This has been evident through our highly successful Quality of Advice Audit and Organisational audit which form part of our Membership Standards.
The aim for the future is to ensure greater access for our clients, increase opening times and a have greater reach to the community surrounding us.

Staff and Volunteers

Our staff and volunteers in every area of the bureau make our service what it is. With their dedication, support and continued hard work we are able to provide and achieve the high standards we deliver.
Since January 2010 we have recruited 10 new volunteers and 3 young adults within the Future Jobs Funding Scheme. We have secured a further 3 placements from the Future Jobs scheme and recruitment for new volunteers is occurring every three months. One of my aims for Harlow CAB is to become a strong link between volunteering, skills development and employment.


Since April 2010, we have been able to secure a trainer for one day a week provided by Broxbourne CAB. This has enabled us to recruit more volunteers; to implement our new Gateway procedure and to grow as a Bureau. Without the training we would not have been able to develop. It is a vital foundation for our Bureau.
However, for the future we also need to ensure that we are able to secure further funding in order to retain and increase the training here at Harlow CAB.
Before April, any training provided was delivered in-house via our Advice Services Manger, Jean Franks, but it was clear that in order for Jean to continue with other areas in her work, training needed to have a sole focus.
We are now developing our annual Training Plan and will also be looking to develop the skills of our existing advisors and team for further development.




A day in the life of a CAB Advisor


I have been a General Advisor at the Harlow CAB for a few years now and I would like to share with you my view, understanding and experience of the bureau and its work.

In Harlow this accessible FREE service, received by ALL who requests it, it is impartial, totally confidential and holistic in its approach to the individual and the problem or concern presented.  Clients who see a General Advisor are never turned away without:

  • A full exploration of their problem
  • Appropriate advice
  • A discussion of the options to bring about an effective solution
  • An understanding of who is taking which action to facilitate an appropriate outcome. 


In the process the advisor will have ensured the client had fully understood their options and had the ability to carry out the necessary actions to bring about the solution.  If the client is unable because of literacy, language, illness, or just doesn't have the ability - the bureau then carries out the actions, with the client's permission, on the client's behalf. 

Sometimes the problem presented may not be the only one affecting the family. 
An example of this is as follows:

A client attended the bureau worried about his rent arrears situation, as he had received a letter from the local authority advising of their intention to seek a possession order.   
During the exploration interview it was discovered the client had recently been made redundant. He had two children and his partner was extremely unwell with an ongoing debilitating illness and had recently become confined to a wheelchair. The client could not foresee that he would be able to return to work as his partner now needed full time care. They were all living in a two bedroom house and the only bathroom was upstairs.  The client had other debts also, credit cards, a bank loan and an overdraft, altogether a total of £7,000. 

 The process:

I began by checking that the redundancy payment was correct and the redundancy selection process had been fair. 

A quick benefit check was then carried out to ensure the client was claiming all the benefits to which the family were entitled. Advice was given on how to claim DLA; Carer's Allowance and any other unclaimed benefits.  

The housing situation was discussed, and various options considered; the feasibility of moving to an adapted property, a disabled facilities grant to adapt the present property. A phone call was made to the Local Authority advising of the family's situation and a request that they suspend any further action with regard to the possession order whilst the debt situation was being dealt with and the family's housing needs assessed.  A referral to a housing specialist for support was also offered.


With regard to debts, various options were discussed such as liaising directly with creditors’ as one option, or the client could consider being referred to a debt specialist to enable access to a Debt Relief Order. The impact of the advantages and disadvantages of the various debt solutions are fully discussed with the client. 

Finally, I advised the client to return to the bureau for further support should any benefit claim is refused, their housing needs not assessed correctly or the debt situation not resolved satisfactorily. 

The client left the bureau with the appropriate advice guides, a copy of some useful Advisernet factsheets, together with any relevant telephone numbers and an action plan to follow.  Hopefully his worries were eased a considerably. 

I then continued to write up his case notes and make the agreed referrals. I was then prepared and ready to help the next client.


Lesley Davison
Advisor for Harlow CAB




Liz Horner: Advice Session Supervisor


Well what a year it’s been.  At our last AGM we had a temporary manager, Nick Prince, a sigh of relief, then unfortunately he moved on and we fell yet again into the depths of despair. Would we ever find another manager? Oh the uncertainty of it all! But we soldiered on and all had our heads down to undergo a further audit, without the support of a manager.

Then, hey presto! A manager was appointed!  What a breath of fresh air! The audit produced a higher than average result, thanks to the hard work put in by all workers, but especially to Jean’s (our Advice manager’s) guiding light.  We can now look forward to a future where we can improve and produce an even better performance to continue help the people of Harlow. Life is looking up for all of us.


Social Policy

Social Policy has long been at the heart of the work of The Citizens Advice service. It has always been recognised that there is little point in treating the symptoms of social injustice and bad policy if the policies remain unchanged. With a network of 416 Citizens Advice Bureaux across England and Wales, Citizens Advice is in a unique position to be able to collect evidence on Social Policy issues from all parts of society. Areas where policy and laws are not working correctly, are unfair, or fail to protect the vulnerable in society can be identified, and the evidence gathered by individual bureaux can be used to support arguments against such policies or laws.

Harlow CAB now forwards all its evidence forms electronically, which means it can be at Citizens Advice as soon as has been submitted and they are able to sort and collate the data immediately. In the last year we have submitted over 60 evidence forms to Citizens Advice. We have also engaged directly with local government on a number of policy issues that affect the people of Harlow.

Social Policy work can often be a difficult undertaking. It entails collecting and recording large amounts of information, the expenditure of a considerable amount of time drafting letters to those in charge of policy and lobbying for change. It is often hard to quantify the effectiveness of the work and how much influence it actually brings to bear on those in positions of power. Even at its most successful those who benefit from it are unlikely to be aware of it. We are all inclined to be only aware of the issues we face. We are rarely aware of issues that others have worked to solve before they can affect us.

However, without a strong and active CAB Social Policy involvement many people would have little voice in issues that affect them, and the only voices Parliament would be likely to hear would be from big businesses with the resources and money to lobby for their vested interests. Recent debates on issues like debt enforcement and bailiff powers would have been very one sided.

With the cut backs and sweeping policy reforms announced by the Government this year the work of the Citizens Advice in Social Policy will become more important than ever, and Harlow CAB will be engaging in this work at all levels. It is likely to be a busy 2011.


Doug Brown
Social Policy Coordinator at Harlow CAB




We are here to help!

Harlow Citizens Advice Bureau Limited
2 Eastgate
The High
Essex CM20 1ND


Advice Telephone Service:
0845 120 3717
01279 430767
01279 429924
Opening Hours
Drop in:                                      

Monday        1000 - 1200
Wednesday   1000 - 1300
Friday           1000 - 1300



Home Visits:  By arrangement
Solicitors’ sessions:  By appointment Monday evenings in bureau or at solicitors’ offices

Outreach Sessions


The Gateway Centre,
Perry Road, (near Staple Tye) Harlow

Thursday 1000 – 1230


The Team

Staff and Volunteers to March 2010


Interim Managers                             

N. Prince*
G. Thompson*
Bureau Manager 
T.  Groom (appointed January 2010)
Advice Services Manager  
J. Franks
Advice Session Supervisor
L.  Horner
Advice Session Support 
& Book keeper                      
L. Horsley       
Philippa Arthur
Gateway Assessor
Georgia Druce*

Outreach Adviser at the                  
Gateway CentreIT Support                                         

R.  Day           
Admin Co-ordinator
J. Burton
Volunteers give, on average, one day a week to the bureau plus extra time to Train and attend staff meetings. They come from all sections of the community and from varying work backgrounds.
Their time, knowledge and skills are an extremely valuable resource.


A. Abdulsalam (trainee advisor)

K. Barrett                                                                    

D. Brown                                                                    

D. Briggs                                                                    

A. Nutt                                                                        

K. Protheroe                                                               

M. Dain                                                                       

P. Houghton                                                               

L. Davison                                                                  

R. Kelly                                                                       

R. Golder (trainee advisor)                                          J.


M. Harris (trainee advisor)

P. Watson                                                                  

S. Self (trainee advisor)

B. Menzies

E. Hopwood (trainee)*

B. Young*

H. Jones*

S. Smith (trainee)*

A. Delali – Yevunya*

D. Narenda*               

S. Narenda*

D. Lee*

V. Chan (trainee)*  

H. Ferguson (trainee advisor)*    


*left during 2009-2010



We want to Thank You!


Harlow District Council

Essex County Council

The Friends of Harlow CAB

Our Local Solicitors – Attwaters, Barnes & Partners, LD Law, Peters   & Co.,

Tilbrooks and Whiskers

Gateway Christian Community

Working Links


Sheering and Hatfield Heath Parish Councils

The Volunteer Centre

Harlow Sports Centre

The Herald Newspaper

Swallow Churchgate Hotel


Countless grateful clients!




Harlow Citizens Advice Bureau

Registered Charity Number  1135235

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