Camden News
Publications by New Journal Enterprises
  Home Archive Competition Jobs Tickets Accommodation Dating Contact us
Camden New Journal - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 9 July 2009
Time to invest in the CAB

• AS a former housing officer I know how essential a good Citizens Advice Bureau is.
Dealing with benefits and utilities companies is a complete headache even for trained professionals.
Camden’s housing benefit form is 28 pages long.
However, vulnerable people with mental health problems or other disabilities, who are being threatened with eviction or the bailiffs, cannot be expected to cope on their own.
They need the CAB.
During a recession the council and the CAB should be investing more money in these services not cutting back.
The prospect of people being evicted from their homes while the Kentish Town CAB is refurbished and volunteers are trained is almost too horrible to contemplate.
Gloucester Crescent, NW1

Poor losers

•THE cuts to the Kentish Town CAB service are a clear case of picking on the poor.
Anyone who has seen the queues of people waiting on the street for more than an hour to get into the CAB in the mornings will appreciate the urgency of their need for advice and help.
My daughter had that need when she got into difficulties with her benefit when she was between jobs and her money was delayed for more than four weeks.
As a single parent she had real hardship and was in a panic about paying her rent and council tax, let alone her bills. The telephone line is so busy that it took more than three hours to get through for an appointment.
Now is the time for the council and the CAB to be investing in more expert frontline advice and casework services, not for cuts, referrals out and supermarket advice.
Spencer Rise, NW5


• I AM but a CAB trainee adviser, so perhaps I haven’t a complete knowledge of the inner workings of many bureaux or boards of trustees or, indeed, councils but I would nevertheless like to restore some balance to the volunteer versus paid advisers argument and offer an opinion on the changes proposed to Camden’s three bureaux.
In the Kilburn bureau where I am a trainee, both permanent paid staff and volunteers are valued and valuable. The full-time advisers offer not only a deep pool of knowledge and experience but also stability. The growing number of trainee volunteers complement them with their enthusiasm to learn and with as much commitment as they are able to offer (two days a week is the maximum possible for both bureau and volunteer). All volunteers have knowledge and experience from previous careers and backgrounds to offer. On the other hand, when trained, their bureau time can be as little as a day a week and, as I am now witnessing, some are unavailable for the duration of the school holidays.
I would like also to highlight some concerns on the trustees’ proposal to use the three Camden bureaux for different purposes in order to offer advice to an increased number of people in Camden. Higher statistics do not necessarily equate to better quality of service. There is a surely a strong case for the local bureau that develops its own identity around client needs, working as a cohesive unit within its own community. At the very least, consider the practicality of Kentish Town clients in need of expert help having to go to Kilburn or Holborn for an appointment. A quick check on the TfL site shows the logistics of travelling are challenging. It could take an hour each way, especially with a child or two, on and off buses and/or up and down the stairs at Kentish Town/ West Hampstead station, not to mention the costs.
When I volunteered to become an adviser I was given no idea that the result of training to do this amazing and challenging work could be the demise of my paid colleagues.
Address supplied, NW6


• THE correspondence about the proposed closure of Kentish Town CAB has concentrated heavily on the replacement of paid advice staff by volunteers.
What has not emerged so clearly is that the type of service provided will radically change. The proposal is to provide a reception service and call centre instead of the current face-to-face casework service tailored to client need. This is like trying to replace GPs by NHS Direct.
Resources currently deployed to complex advice and advocacy work will be diverted to the provision of information and referral only with insufficient back up support to enable service users to resolve their problems. No thought appears to have been given to what will happen to the existing clients who need a full advice service and, most importantly, no attempt has been made to consult them.
The issue is not whether an adviser is paid or not but how much experience they have. An advantage of a team of mainly paid staff such as the one currently at Kentish Town CAB is that people have worked in the area a long time and have built up strong relationships with the service users, the other advice providers and statutory services. This has a beneficial impact on both the effectiveness of the advice given and the numbers of people it is possible to see.
Many volunteers tend not to stay for very long after their training as they need paid work, and there are benefits for both the volunteers and the service if they are able to work alongside experienced advisers rather than being asked to replace them.
As a volunteer at Kentish Town myself and a previous manager there, I can vouch for the fact that volunteers are welcomed for the different skills, professional and otherwise. I would urge the trustee board to reconsider and to give more thought to what would provide, now and in the future within the resources available from all sources, the best service to those most in need.
Address supplied


• HOW can the CAB trustees and the council think that now is the time to close the Kentish Town CAB?
The service provides for those in desperate need and many people need expert advice and casework for urgent and complex benefit and money problems.
Councillor Andrew Marshall (letters, July 2) says that where necessary volunteers can refer people for specialist help; where is the extra capacity to replace that help currently provided at the Kentish Town CAB?
The Mary Ward Centre in Queens Square is on the far boundary of the borough and not easily accessible by bus or tube and it provides services for the whole of London. £140,000 cannot meet the increasing need that the three CABs currently struggle to meet in Camden. And I would not want to get my healthcare or my advice in a supermarket. I don’t suppose many do.
Stratford Villas, NW1

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Camden New Journal, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to The deadline for letters is midday Tuesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld. Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

Comment on this article.
(You must supply your full name and email address for your comment to be published)







Theatre Music
Arts & Events Attractions