Advice Link Blackpool
A vibrant benefit take-up campaign that led to advice network
How did it come about?
In 1999, Blackpool Borough Council published ‘Talking Point’ – a Social Inclusion Plan for Blackpool.
In order to deal with the challenges identified, local agencies came together to form Blackpool Benefits Partnership – now known as Advice Link – with the aim of tackling social exclusion.
In 2001 the Partnership was successful in securing funding for a three-year benefits take up campaign. Today, the Advice Link Network includes not only agencies giving benefit advice but a variety of organisations dealing with social issues.
Advice Link’s accounting and personnel is run through Blackpool Council but the team is managed through an independent management board and does not sit under any Department at the Council.
In August 2007 the network had 32 members, and two and a half dedicated workers including one coordinator, a project officer, and one business manager. Funding for advice work means there are also two benefit take up outreach workers, a debt advice development worker and two debt caseworkers
What is the network doing?
- is providing a forum for discussion for advice and legal information providers
- publicises each member through posters and leaflets
- promotes accessible advice by organising roadshows. Members of the network come directly to clients in community halls and answer the questions of anybody walking through the door
- encourages the take-up of benefits, with the help of two outreach workers paid for variously by NRF, Health and Working Neighbourhoods funding.. The outreach workers do initial benefits check and help clients claim. It also promoted take-up through the LGA Quids for Kids campaign for benefits take-up aimed at families with children
- influences social policy through feedback on local need and provision to the Community Advice Strategy Group, Local Strategic Partnership, and Funders and Partners
- runs a financial literacy strategy group with an emphasis on debt prevention
- refers clients on through paper and an e-mail network form.
How well has it done so far?
Supporting front line workers
Pam, Advice Link coordinator, believes the network is supporting frontline workers in members’ agencies: ‘We do as much as we can for them, to keep everybody together. It’s a bit like the United Nations.’ All the coordinating work Advice Link is doing (chairing meetings, attending funding seminars, etc) is work members do not have time to take on.
Capacity building for advisers and frontline workers
Staff members from non for profit organisations in the network receive free training from Pam. In particular, council workers receive take-up training.
Member agencies know each other well and can call on each other. Pam says ‘ We do a lot of introducing people, it’s a bit like being a marriage broker’
What happens next for Advice Link?
Advice Link is always thinking about a new strategy, and also about renewing their funding.
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