Tower Hamlets Community Advice Network
A historic partnership
How did it come about?
Tower Hamlets Community Advice Network is a confederation of advice agencies in Tower Hamlets in North East London.
In 2006, a partnership of agencies, drawn together through the local Community Legal Services Partnership, submitted an application for funding to the Big Lottery to set up the network. The partnership is currently a loose federation consisting of 12 organisations including the Law Centre, the CAB, Age Concern, independent advice agencies and private practice legal aid solicitors. It is intended that the partnership will be formally constituted in the near future.
The Tower Hamlets bid (led by the Law Centre) was successful in achieving lottery funding, and now employs a Network Link Manager and three roving link advisers (three years funding). The link advisers are generalist advisers who go on six months placements in members’ agencies. The aim if to help build capacity by delivering best practice models and freeing up time for others in the agencies to work on achieving/reviewing quality marks, taking a full role in partnership, attending meetings etc.
What is the network doing?
The network is working towards…
- sharing an advertising and branding strategy that makes partner advice services more visible and reinforces the joint working model;
- developing an online website based referral system giving people access to the advice network through any partner entry point;
- a shared quality control system ensuring consistency of services;
- introducing systems for shared administration and monitoring that will make agencies more cost effective and better placed to bid for contracts and other joint funding.
How well is the network doing?
In terms of their choice of legal structure, the network is benefitting from bono legal guidance. But Heather stress the fact you need to have an idea of what you want before getting legal help “you need to be careful, they might want to go further than you on the first ‘date’.” “I don’t want them to do all the running.”
Some people on steering group are not as involved as others or have not recognised the tight time scales advice agencies are up against. Heather has to remind them of the necessity of partnership working “If you don’t have a partnership up and running when commissioning takes place none of us will get LSC funding”
What happens next for Tower Hamlets Community Advice Network?
The network plans to establish a legally constituted partnership body that will contract centrally with key funders, such as, the LSC and the Local Authority. They are currently thinking of what the right vehicule would be.
If the network is to bid for a contract, the LSC will want all the information recorded across the board. The network needs to develop a system where they can export all the information. At the moment everybody is doing monitoring on their different systems.
Heather Johnson, Manager of Tower Hamlets Community Advice Network
0207 375 7132
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