Advice how you want it
WHERE would you send a friend or colleague struggling to make ends meet, at risk of losing their home or in debt? Most people when looking for advice will either know of or be pointed to a local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), such is the strength of the brand and the trust in the services it provides.
There are some 385 independent CABs throughout the country. What most people do not know is that each local CAB is an independent charity, having to raise its own funds to deliver services. The national Citizens Advice organisation ensures conformity with audited quality assurance standards.
So what about the Tunbridge Wells and District CAB? We cover the whole of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council area, with offices in Tunbridge Wells and Cranbrook, mobile and outreach services in Paddock Wood, Hawkhurst and other villages – to ensure wide coverage – and a home visiting service for those who are housebound.
We have 140 volunteers providing advice and guidance, and also support with a range of administrative, IT, training, fundraising and other roles within the bureau. We see this as Big Society in action, and we are proud of our dedicated team who give so much to our local community.
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Although cash funding is vital, without our volunteers we could not tackle the diverse needs of our clients, who often suffer a range of interconnected and complex problems.
Of course, our value to individual clients is in resolving their housing, income, benefits or debt problems; but very often a direct consequence is the beneficial impact on families.
The support and flexibility offered by our team of volunteers has enabled us to reshape our services even though our core funds are declining. Our mobile advice bus, now a familiar sight in rural towns and villages, gives residents access to our services in a wide range of locations, even if they find transport difficult. Not everyone wants or needs to have a face-to-face service, so we also offer telephone advice, and new information kiosks which give people access to a web-based information and guidance service.
We also deliver a number of individually funded projects focused on homelessness, housing and mental health, alongside our Legal Services Commission contract providing legal aid in housing, employment, debt and welfare benefits.
In the past year Tunbridge Wells CAB saw 5,500 clients with 21,187 issues, achieving for our clients collectively £2,360,131 worth of income gain.
We have many advisors who stay for years; but we also have a number of volunteers who join us to gain work experience before returning to work, or after completing school or university. This diversity brings interest and variety to our service along with a broad understanding of the problems that our clients can experience.
If you would like to join us and volunteer contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you think we can help or advise you, visit our website www.twcab.org.uk or call 01892 533880.