Here at Citizens Advice, we aim to provide just that – advice and support on a whole range of topics to any citizen in the community who needs it!
You may know us as a place to go for help in making an application for benefits, or for support in managing your debts. You may need help in getting on to the local housing register, finding a school place for your child, or dealing with companies who have provided a poor customer service. We can do all of that!
But are you aware of our role in the wider charity sector in your local area? Many local charities and support initiatives rely on Citizens Advice to identify and signpost vulnerable members of the community who could benefit from their help. Although we are lucky to receive some direct donations and bequests, we are not generally a grant-giving organisation, but we do frequently carry out all the ‘ground work’ before referring clients to those local organisations who are. These support organisations rarely have the resources to do this detailed work themselves and their collaboration with Citizens Advice is an important and valuable part of the process. And for us, of course, it secures much needed short-term support for our clients while we are helping them to address their wider issues.
However, much as our contact with these charities helps our own clients, it means that Citizens Advice is also uniquely placed to understand and be forewarned of any problems the charities themselves may be experiencing. Advisers in one of our South West Surrey offices, for example, were horrified recently to hear that one of the local foodbanks was on the verge of running out of food!
“I’ve never heard anything like it,’ says George*, an adviser of many years standing. ‘In the middle of this cost-of-living crisis too! Just when we seem to be referring more and more clients to the foodbank! If the shelves are bare there, I really don’t know what we’re going to do, but I suppose very many of their donations come from people who may well be struggling themselves now, and if they don’t feel able to give.”
And therein lies the dilemma: just as more people find themselves in need of charitable help, an increasing number may be thinking, however reluctantly, that charity begins at home!
So, this Christmas your local Citizens Advice would like to remind you that, while help and support is always available, via ourselves and in conjunction with a network of local charity initiatives, contributions to these local charities are always welcome and indeed vital to their work. An extra tin, or two, in your weekly shop could make all the difference to the foodbank, and the people who use it, at this very expensive time of year. Please look out for the collection baskets in your local supermarket. If you are eligible for the winter fuel payment, you might consider whether you really need it, or whether you could donate it to one of the local charities who will use this money to alleviate fuel poverty in your area. And, of course, there are the usual fundraising drives, particularly at this time of year. Please give generously if and where you can!
And if you feel that you need help yourself, whatever the issue, please do get in touch via one of the channels listed in the box below. Merry Christmas!
*Name changed for reasons of confidentiality
Citizens Advice South West Surrey contact details:
Call Adviceline (free) to speak to an Adviser:
Leave online message
Self help – search our national site by topic
Citizens Advice Mole Valley contact details:
Contact East Surrey Domestic Abuse Services on 01737 771350 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Surrey Domestic Abuse 9am-9pm Helpline – 01483 776822
In an emergency always dial 999
Citizens Advice Reigate and Banstead contact details:
Phone Adviceline: 0808 278 7945 (free) to speak to an adviser (Monday – Friday 9.00 – 16.00)
Email: Use an enquiry form
Self help (website)