Advice Nottingham - A strategic vision
How did it come about?
In 2006, nine non for profit advice agencies formed a consortium and set up an infrastructure organisation, `Advice Nottingham'.
The advice groups- Citizens Advice Bureau, Nottingham Law Centre, St Ann’s Advice centre, Shelter NHAS, North and West Advice Services and Meadows, Clifton, Bestwood and Forest Fields Advice Centres have collaborated to develop a new vision for Advice Services across Nottingham. Members are voluntary, funded by Nottingham City Council, and have advice as their core activity.
Advice Nottingham is now a charity with an overarching strategic advisory body constituted of members drawn from key strategic bodies, the Council and advice providers.
Advice Nottingham has some lottery funding for 2 posts, one network project manager and one project assistant.
What is the network doing?
- has explored best practice with the Council. Together, they have visited other councils round the country to see how advice forums and council were working together. ‘The council wanted to do some visits to other councils so we joined forces. We did joint visits to Coventry, Manchester, Derby, Sheffield.’
- is now speaking at director level at the Council. ‘We got advice firmly on the agenda of the council. We’ve got a lot more contact at the Council at higher level’
- has set up a service delivery structure that consists of core advice services providing triage, general advice and casework services
- is working on a seamless access for clients. The network wants to get funding for one telephone number, internet for access to advice services and an on-line appointment system. ‘If somebody contacts a member of AN it shouldn’t matter to them who they’ve contacted. It should then be the responsibility of AN, to make sure they get to the right place.’
- has reinforced members’ knowledge of what is available ‘We are better placed to help the clients because we know what services are out there.’.
How well is the network doing?
Advice Nottingham used consultants twice when they got stuck at the beginning of the partnership. In particular, with funding from Lloyds TSB, Advice Nottingham
Employed a consultancy to develop an advice strategy for Nottingham. ‘We had 3 days facilitated by a consultant to get core values into the open. It would have been difficult for members within the group, some people came with a lot of baggage. We had so much in common but we needed that bringing out.’.
Martyn Neal, network coordinator, also realised from early on the importance of keeping staff in the loop to make the project work ‘ Don’t ignore the human aspect of it. Everybody needs to feel involved and feel they can have an impact.’
Hence an Advice Nottingham all staff meeting in September 2007 paid for by round 1 of advice plus, and the presence of a staff communications item on every steering group meeting agenda.
The network also had a difficult time trying to find out what legal structure to adopt. Martyn recommends thinking about when to get legal help. If you go too early, ‘What you will be saying is way too vague and they can’t give you any indication’ . But if you go too late, ‘you will have spent too much time going down roads which aren’t going to be allowed by the Charity Commission, the LSC or the company registry.’
What happens next for Advice Nottingham?
The network wants to look at a common training programme and common standards, reporting and monitoring systems.
The network will also look at developing services in areas of the City that currently do not have a service.
Martyn Neal at the Meadows Advice Group
Direct line 0115 986 4508
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