Financial Year 2016-2017
Please note – the format for this report is set out in regulatory requirements
Objectives and aims
The main formal object of the charity, as stated in our governing documents, is the promotion of any charitable purposes for the benefit of the community in the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames and elsewhere in the United Kingdom by the advancement of education, the protection of health and the relief of poverty, sickness and distress.
We have identified six key strategic objectives as follows:
- Good access to our service to best suit clients’ needs across the range of subjects.
- Campaigning to improve policies which affect people’s
- Maintaining excellent external relations to ensure best outcomes for our clients and safeguard the future of our
- Working to support coordinated and integrated information and advice services locally.
- Maintaining funding to deliver our objectives and safeguard the future of our
- Maintaining external quality accreditation to provide evidence to our funders and clients that we use our resources effectively and offer a high quality
The trustees confirm that they have referred to the Charity Commission’s guidance on public benefit when reviewing the charity’s aims and objectives and in planning future activities.
Significant activities as set out in governing document
During the year we continued to provide a high quality service for as many people as possible focussing on those most in need, in line with our vision of the service we provide to the local community. Our work thus contributed to significant public benefit in our community.
We took the following actions to implement our strategy in relation to these objectives:
- Good access to the service to best suit clients’ needs across the range of subjects
We reviewed our service delivery model to make sure that there is good access for clients across all channels – online, face to face and by phone. We monitored volumes of contacts with clients to make sure that we continue to make the best use of the resources we have to meet clients’ needs. We recruited and trained people to deliver the different elements of the service so that we make the best use of the different skills people have and develop a varied, engaged, competent and committed team. This included our ‘Money Talks’ team which works to provide people with financial literacy skills and ways to combat fuel poverty and associated topics and support to enhance digital skills with a view to preventing problems arising.
- Campaigning to improve policies which affect people’s lives
We gathered information about the impact of policies and procedures on people’s lives and assessed this data to identify where there are instances of injustice or possibly unintended consequences to policies. We then shared this information with policy makers to support them in understanding the impact of their decisions and to give them the opportunity to amend policies if consequences were unintended. For instance, we shared data locally with the Job Centre Plus staff about the impact of the requirement to sign on as available for work if turned down for Employment Support Allowance and this led to a rebriefing of work coaches so that they are aware of the range of options for claimants in this situation. We produced monthly electronic newsletter updates about the number of people we helped and examples of the queries they raised with us. In addition during the summer of 2016, we shared four client stories via our website blog (with audio and visual images).
- Maintaining excellent external relations to ensure best outcomes for our clients and safeguard the future of our service
This networking included attending meetings of the following partnerships: Kingston Plan delivery group, the Better Lives project, Suicide Prevention forum, Welfare Reform Board, Voluntary Sector Partnership Board, Health and Wellbeing Network, Housing Strategic Partnership, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence forum and operational group, Borough Resilience Forum and Kingston First Board meetings. In addition we hosted several members of the national Citizens Advice service as part of their induction to the service, so that they could see how a local service operates
- Working to support coordinated and integrated information and advice services locally
We continued to lead and support the network oflocal information and advice providers which includes Voluntary Sector, Statutory Sector and Private Sector providers so that working together we devised a local Information and Advice Strategy and mutual online referral systems and self help materials for clients. This approach will help to maintain diversity of supply and therefore choice for clients who often need the ‘wrap around’ support that is offered by agencies supporting specific client groups.
- Maintaining funding to deliver our objectives and safeguard the future of our service
The main area of work in relation to funding was to take part in the Competitive Tendering Process for a commissioned contract to deliver information and advice services locally. This approach by our local authority, the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (“RBK”), is in line with many other local authorities and involves a rigorous co-design of the scope of the tender and then formal submission processes resulting in a formal contract with performance indicators and contract management processes. This process was very time consuming and had an inhibiting impact on our ability to do much forward planning, including securing additional funds from external sources since other funders were understandably reluctant to give money to an agency for a two year project if core funding for that period was not secured.
- Maintaining external quality accreditation to provide evidence to our funders and clients that we use our resources effectively and offer a high quality
This is part of our new national association membership package/contract which is introduced in 2017 and involves continual assessment against various organisational, :financial and quality of advice criteria. It is a new and systematic process which includes self assessment and cross checking by Citizens Advice Assessors so that there are quarterly reports on standards met and also our understanding of and application of the standards. It is anticipated that this rigorous process will give enhanced reassurance to funders that the Citizens Advice brand is reputable and trustworthy and gives a confidence that public funds are being appropriately used for a quality and reliable service. We also undertook the Safeguarding audit in relation to our contract with RBK. This indicates that we have appropriate policies and procedures in place in relation to safeguarding issues.
The charity receives help and support in the form of voluntary assistance in advising the public and in administering the charity’s operations It is estimated that ifwe paid for the work done by our volunteer team, this would have cost over £200,000 in the last year. When compared with our core funding of £272,000, it can be seen that the value of the work the volunteers makes a very significant contribution ‘in kind’ to our community.
The Trustee Board is extremely grateful to all our volunteers for their continued support and dedication.
ACHIEVEMENT AND PERFORMANCE
In the course of our work with local people, we provided support that enabled 6,000people to find an answer to their problems online through self help materials. We supported an additional 3,300 people who came to our offices and used the Information Centre, with support from our initial contact volunteers, or attended appointments with a range of local solicitors offering their service free of charge, or with partner agencies such as Richmond and Sutton Citizens Advice who ran clinics on debt and Pensionwise advice respectively. We also offered face to face assistance from our Independent Financial Adviser who gave a range of advice including how to pay for care costs. In addition we helped 2,500 people who had complex casework queries – most of these related to Welfare Benefits issues and often were a result of the government Welfare Reform changes.
We helped people to secure £687,000 of :financial gains, through benefit entitlements secured, debts written off or charitable payments sourced. We also helped thirty two local families to avoid repossession through our housing advice and if these people had been rehoused by the local authority it is estimated that it would have cost in excess of£ 1.2m.
We worked, through our network links, to make sure that information and advice was included in a range of local strategies as it is understood that future funding will be reliant on this inclusion. This work included : Kingston Plan, Housing Strategy, Suicide Prevention strategy and Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence strategies as well as the local Mental Health plan.
Internal and external factors
We have been involved in the new Citizens Advice Quality of Advice Audit (QAA) process which involves monthly assessment of a random sample of cases. Our assessments are cross checked by Citizens Advice (see Wider Network paragraph below) and a quarterly score is given. If this does not meet standards then we have to devise and implement a development plan to address issues. We have recorded high scores on our QAA assessments.
Partnership work has continued and includes:
Voluntary and Community Sector Strategy project, Kingston Information and Advice Alliance (‘kiaa’) which comprises 60 agencies from statutory, voluntary and private sectors, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Forum, Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness, Kingston Foodbank, Kingston Race and Equalities Council, Staywell, Kingston Voluntary Action, Voluntary Sector Board, South West London Law Centre, Mind in Kingston, Kingston Centre for Independent Living, Refugee Action Kingston and work with local solicitors, Straight Talking, various departments of our local authority (including those working to alleviate child poverty and to transform Social Care services for adults and on local housing issues), Welfare Reform Project, Resilience Forum, Kingston Strategic Partnership, Suicide Prevention Forum and partners working on the Refugee and Migrants Strategy.
During the year, we have continued as the Strategic Lead Partner for the RBK in the Information and Advice sub sector. This role has enabled us to improve coordination locally of information and advice services which will improve services for clients.
During the year under review, RBK continued to fund our core service to the local community. We have a close working relationship with the officers, councillors and relevant departments, and we have greatly appreciated their ongoing support over many years.
The charity continued to face challenging financial circumstances during the year. However, following the reorganisation of our activities, we returned a surplus of £722 on unrestricted funds for the year which increased these reserves to £80,128 at 31 March 2017. This figure is stated after making provision for estimated pension deficit contributions which are now required under Financial Reporting Standard 102. We have no other reserves and action continues to ensure that the charity’s maintains a satisfactory financial position. Further details are given in notes 12 and 13 to the financial statements.
Principal funding sources
Up to 31 March 2017, we receive a grant from our main funder, RBK, but from 1 April 2017, we have been awarded a contract from RBK to deliver Information and Advice Services and to run the local network of providers. The contract is called Advice Kingston and features a single front door to all local information and advice provision through our already well-established local network, Kingston Information and Advice Alliance (kiaa), as well as providing universal information and advice services to the community through the Citizens Advice service. This provision includes, but is not limited, to requirements under the Care Act 2014.
Given the clarification of our core funding position, we are now able to continue to pursue other funding opportunities as they arise, in accordance with our three year funding strategy and our identified priorities (see future plans below).
The charity’s reserves policy is set out in note 12 to the financial statements.
Now that core funding has been secured from the local authority for a period of three years with a possible two year extension, year by year, the Trustee Board will be in a position to develop a longer term strategy for this funding period. It is noted that development of services will build on the prevention work already undertaken and that includes financial literacy, digital inclusion and combating fuel poverty. Additional funding sources will be sought, as in previous years and enhancement of the preventative work will complement and enhance traditional service provision. It is also noted that the core contract includes, for the first time, running and supporting the network oflocal provision and so work will be done to secure the operation of the single front door for information and advice provision and implementing the local strategy for information and advice.
We will continue to develop wider partnerships and networks so that we increase opportunities for partnership working and additional funding. This will include, but not be limited to, partner agencies working in the Health and Social Care field as it is noted that there is a role for timely advice in alleviating stress and depression with consequential health impacts.
STRUCTURE, GOVERNANCE AND MANAGEMENT
The organisation, which is also known as Citizens Advice Kingston, is a company limited by guarantee and is a registered charity. Its governing document is the Memorandum and Articles of Association which is in line with the recommended document produced by Citizens Advice. This sets out the processes, roles and obligations in relation to good governance of our organisation and is the reference point for Trustees when acting to deliver our objectives.
Recruitment and appointment of trustees
The directors of the charitable company are its trustees for the purpose of charity law and throughout this report are collectively referred to as the trustees. They are elected to the Trustee Board by the members of the charity at the annual general meeting and retire by rotation after three years in office. The chairman of the trustees is elected by the trustees. The trustees who acted during the year under review are listed on page 6. Following the change in the contractual relationship with our main funder, there are no Council nominees from April 2017 but we wish to thank those who have acted in this capacity over the years and have contributed to the constructive working relationship we have maintained with the Council.
There is a recruitment and induction process for any new trustees who may approach the organisation following an advertisement for new Board members or be introduced by personal recommendation. A skills audit of the Board is carried out annually. This identifies any skills gaps so that recruitment can address these with a view to making sure that there is a good range of ability and experience on the Board to support good strategic decision making.
Induction and training of new trustees
New trustees are elected at the Annual General Meeting or are co-opted during the course of the year. They are given an induction pack of literature which confirms their role and responsibilities. They also undergo an induction programme in the bureau and may attend briefing sessions run by Citizens Advice (see Wider Network, below). There is a Chair’s network group London wide and occasional interest groups are also held.
Trustee Board ofup to fifteen members administers the charity. They meet up to six times per year and there are additional meetings of the Executive Committee and working groups, as required. The Chief Executive of the charity is the senior team member appointed by the trustees to manage the day-to-day operations of the charity. In addition, there is an experienced team of paid staff and a substantial team of volunteers who are key to the service offered by the charity. The remuneration of the paid staff team are set by the trustee board.
Decisions are made by the Trustee Board in line with the Business Development Plan which is reviewed annually and reported on quarterly to the Trustee Board. The Executive Committee meets each month to review progress against targets and the Charity’s financial position, and to discuss issues referred to them by the main Trustee Board. Reports and recommendations are then taken to the full Board for approval, and their implementation is organised by the Chief Executive and the staff team. The Executive Committee also addresses any Human Resources issues.
There are regular staff meetings, paid team meetings and senior management team meetings which ensure that progress is being made against targets and also enable early troubleshooting when problems arise. There is an Annual Public Meeting which involves the whole staff team, Trustee Board and Stakeholders. The focus of this varies – for example, methods of access to the service, funding strategy, stakeholder engagement etc. – and the results form part of the ongoing Business Development Plan process.
We are a member of the Citizens Advice, the national charity which sets our standards for advice and equal opportunities and supports bureaux with an information system, training and other services. Operating policies are independently determined by our Trustee Board in order to fulfil our charitable objectives and comply with the national membership requirements.
In addition to our membership of Citizens Advice, we also cooperates and liaise with a number of other advisory services, local charities and council departments on behalf of our clients. If one of our trustees is also involved with another relevant organisation, they may be involved in discussions but not in any decision-making process.
All decisions are by reference to a Corporate Risk Strategy which supports trustees in assessing how to set strategic objectives. There is a risk assessment process which is followed by our Executive Committee at its monthly meetings. This includes assessment and analysis of budgets and management accounts as well as competitor analysis and the assessment of new initiatives and funding opportunities. This approach allows trustees to embrace some level of risk within a framework of due diligence to protect the organisation. An example of the trustees’ work on risk assessments was the preparation of a plan to address the situation if our bid for key funding from April 2017 were unsuccessful. This plan involved details of how, if necessary, to close down our operation in a professional and timely manner, ensuring that we would meet legal obligations and use effective communication strategies.