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Brent Citizens Advice Bureau Spring 2011

Giving the Mayor £1.8 Million for Brent We were delighted to welcome the Mayor of Brent on Friday 15th April and hand him a symbolic cheque of £1.8 million for Brent residents. housing difficulties, but for the intervention of Brent CAB advisors. Our service is clearly value for money as for every £1 we received this year to fund the service, we raised £35 for Brent residents. Our advisors raised this amount in unclaimed tax credits for Brent residents over the last four years. This money would have been left unclaimed and the residents thrown into severe financial and

However, sadly this is the last year we were funded to do this work by HMRC.

was very complimentary about our bureau. He said, “It’s fantastic to be able to recognise the contribution that Brent Citizens Advice Bureau advisors make to the people of Brent. This cheque shows just how valuable their work is.” “I have seen the very long queues every morning outside the bureau and the staff have great patience, giving each client the time they deserve.” Willesden Green councillors Ann Hunter and Lesley Jones also attended. It meant a lot to our volunteers and advisors to have their hard work praised by their local representatives.

The Mayor, who has personally used the services of the bureau in the past,

New Chair’s Comment We are pleased to welcome Mary Purcell to her post as the new Chair of Brent CAB My career has taken me from high secure hospitals and prisons representing serious offenders at formal hearings, to leading teams of Mental Health Act Commissioners visiting hospitals where patients were detained. Sometimes I met people in detention who had lived in Brent and, immediately, struck a chord when I talked about local landmarks. Becoming Chair of Brent CAB is an honour with special significance for me. This is because my working life has been focused on other people’s lives, particularly the lives of vulnerable people in crisis.

In 1981, I became a founder advice worker at the new Willesden CAB, now called Brent CAB. Memories of these years are vivid to me and my experiences there transformed me. Brent CAB, Working in Partnership with

Taking over as Chair just as the CAB faces huge cuts to funding, is a massive challenge. We need Brent residents to fight for the future of the service they have told us they value. This is especially vital now, as new rules introduced by central government will change social welfare provision for ever. We rely on you to spread the word and campaign for the outstanding work of Brent CAB to continue in the challenging years ahead. Mary Purcell Chair of Brent CAB

Focus on Mental Health, Benefits and Pro Bono What we do at Park Royal Mental Health Centre Brent CAB at Park Royal helps patients with benefits, housing and employment issues. This gives them financial independence, enabling them to take control of their lives and resolve their issues before their problems get too overwhelming. At a recent meeting with the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, which funds the Park Royal Mental Health CAB project, they were most impressed with the level of attendance at the outreach centre as well as the quality of casework produced by Brent CAB advisors. We feel very confident that much of the work we do is instrumental in avoiding the repeated hospitalisation of clients and all the associated costs. As a result of our high quality work at the local Mental Health Centre, this service is continuing to be funded, despite cuts to the Trust’s budget.

News in Brief Daily Mirror Helpline Three advisors, Bryan, Samia and Pauline were the voices at the end of the phone on the Daily Mirror's two day Advice Helpline following the budget. The callers were mainly elderly, disabled and carers, and concerned about the future of disability benefit. The advisors received excellent feedback from those who phoned in.

Children’s Centres

We have raised £2 million this year and a fantastic £4.23 million over the last two years for Brent families visiting our outreach projects at Children's Campaigning on Welfare Benefits Centres in Brent. As part of our campaign to make sure changes to the benefits system do not impact negatively Unfortunately, 50% of our on Brent residents, the bureau welcomed the Private Secretary to Lord Freud, Minister for Children's Centre funding is Welfare Reform at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), to a day in the life of a now being cut. welfare claimant at Brent CAB. We have gained £263,000 over the last fifteen months for Brent residents at Park Royal Mental Health Centre, preventing homelessness, providing money advice and negotiating with employers.

The Private Secretary, Jessica Yuille observed an adviser’s interviews with welfare benefits clients. She could see how severely disabled the client was and yet also saw the client being rated as able to work under the Government’s points system. We are pleased that the representative from DWP was able to observe how the practicalities of Government policies translate on the ground. She commented on the main things she had taken away from the experience and would share with colleagues, ‘I learnt that the DWP telephone service and the Jobcentre Plus staff service is patchy and that reconsideration of Work Capability Assessments by DWP is often ineffective as no alternative medical evidence is requested.’ Ms Yuille’s experience at Brent CAB will feed back into her work on Universal Credits in the Welfare Benefits Bill. We hope it will help the Government address the obvious flaws in the current system, including the inaccurate assessments of disabled clients, poor customer service for those that need advice from DWP and Jobcentre Plus and the complexity of benefits forms.

Visits to the bureau This year Brent residents have made an incredible 25,000 visits to the bureau in the high road.

Access to Advice Brent Citizens Advice Bureau 270 – 272 High Road Willesden London NW10 2EY

Pro Bono Clinic celebrate ten years of service

Brent CAB have dealt with almost a thousand Brent clients using pro bono lawyers at our John Fisher Free Legal Advice Clinic over the last ten years.

Open session: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, & Friday 9.30-16.00.

The Clinic was named after John Fisher, who started volunteering as a pro bono lawyer at Brent CAB in the eighties and stayed for seventeen years, starting as a trainee lawyer for a high street firm and finishing as a partner at the international City law firm Clyde and Co, which now sponsors the Legal Clinic. Brent CAB is very grateful for the hard work and experience brought to the Bureau by our Honorary Legal Advisors over the last ten years. The cuts to legal aid and call for a Big Society will make it more and more important for City lawyers to dedicate their time free of charge.

Thursday by appointment only. Advice Line: 0845 050 5250 Mon-Fri 9.305pm.

We are always looking for more lawyers to improve our pro bono service, so please get in touch if you are interested at

This newsletter was edited by Fernando Ruz 0208 438 1214

Brent CAB newsletter  

News and views from Brent Citizens Advice Bureau

Brent CAB newsletter  

News and views from Brent Citizens Advice Bureau