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Reflections on a busy year

As we put our annual report together, ready for our Annual General Meeting on 28th November, the extent of the changes made during the past year are clearly evident: overall numbers of advice issues have increased by over 46%, – from 15,703 in 2014/15 to 22,950 in 2015/16.

There are a number of reasons behind the increases, but the most important is the changes we have made to how we deliver our service, to better respond to client needs and meet demand. The changes we have introduced include:
– Providing quick, light touch interventions, where this is appropriate to clients’ capacity and needs – so we see more people and reduce waiting times (including our Wednesday drop in for Nepali speaking clients)

– Developing new channels to reach people, through webchat and email services, opening up access for people with restricted use of our traditional service models

– Improving our delivery of advice by phone

– Launching our new Pension Wise service in April 2015 – giving expert guidance to people on the new pension freedoms; and working across Hampshire as well as parts of Surrey and Berkshire

The above are all new: but we know at the heart of our service is the traditional, dedicated face to face help needed by vulnerable people with complex needs. The fact that 32% of all our advice issues relate to welfare benefits, reflects the complexity of the benefits system and the daily challenges faced by the clients who depend upon it – often as their sole source of income.

We will continue to put the needs of those vulnerable people at the very centre of what we do. We know our service is for everyone, and there are more needs out there than we can meet: we will continue to innovate and develop. But the face to face service that we provide to local people at the time they need it most, must be safeguarded for all.

We are all really proud of our achievements in the past year, reaching more people than ever; but also need to sustain our values and focus in challenging times.