London Councils case study – Quarter 16 Case Study – investing in quality of advice in Brent and supporting the development of new advice services in the borough

As the London Councils-funded Stronger Organisations Benefiting London(ers) (SOBeL) project finishes, we are making sure that the positive impact of funding continues beyond the formal end of the programme.  In Brent, contact with a single community organisation in January and February 2017 enabled us to support a further seven community organisations who are part of Brent Community Advice Network.  These seven community organisations in turn support a wide range of people living in the borough, including young people, the Somali community, people at risk of exploitation at work, disabled people, the Asian community and parent carers.

We worked with Brent Community Advice Network to deliver a morning workshop in March 2017 that introduced participants to the recently revised Advice Quality Standard (AQS).  The AQS provides external quality assurance to funders looking to commission advice services, whilst at the same time providing a comprehensive and adaptable framework for groups and organisations providing, or considering whether they want to provide, advice services.  Advice by definition goes beyond information and general guidance, and so it is important for organisations making the transition – from providing general information and support to providing advice – to understand how to design and develop their service offer.  This involves, for example, understanding that the service needs to be covered by professional indemnity insurance, being clear about regulatory boundaries linked to advice on debt and immigration, making sure that advisers have access to ongoing training and information resources and having suitable systems in place to manage ongoing casework.

One organisation attending the workshop was the Work Rights Centre which runs an employment rights clinic for UK and EU nationals at Wembley Library.  They provide free and confidential assistance in a number of European languages and have specifically targeted people who cannot access advice services during the working week.  As a result of the workshop, they are taking some time to read the materials provided, compile their existing written policies and service documentation and identify any gaps that need to be addressed.  After the workshop they commented:

“Thanks for the materials and the informative presentation yesterday. My colleagues and I can’t wait to start working on this… Your help will be invaluable and we will stay in touch.”

We are pleased that AdviceUK will be able to continue providing support to these organisations in Brent through an ongoing Trust for London-funded project.  We are also encouraging all voluntary sector advice services to join national advice networks such as AdviceUK – this will help ensure that organisations can continue to benefit from network membership support and future projects aimed at improving the effectiveness and sustainability of free and independent social welfare advice for Londoners.

Additional information:

Name of Project: Stronger Organisations-Benefiting London(ers) SoBeL

Address of Project: AdviceUK, 101E, Universal House, 88-94 Wentworth Street, London E1 7SA

Named contact: Enrique Saenz – Consultant

Telephone No:      0300 777 0107


Website (relating to the project):

  1. Project aims and objectives:

Our activities meet the aims of priority 4 by working to achieve the following:

  • Supporting diversification of funding, self-sustaining income generation and social enterprise
  • Managers who are more skilled to lead their organisations to be better able to respond to service delivery demands
  • More effective use of the data collection methods to present a more dynamic picture of impact made for Londoners
  • Agencies working more effectively through collaboration and the sharing of good practice, access to information and developing social policy

As a result the advice sector will be in a much stronger position to deal more effectively with the problems faced by Londoners as a result of the welfare changes, high levels of unemployment and low wage employment and others on fixed incomes, such as pensioners.

  1. Funding details: £507,632 over two years from London Councils to support London’s community and voluntary organisations (ended March 31 2017)
  2. Main beneficiaries: Community and voluntary organisations of all London boroughs
  3. Outcomes: Development & Sustainability, Strategy & Partnership, Equalities & Diversity
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