Working together, the kiaa members have drafted a local Information and Advice Strategy which will guide and steer our plans for the next year.
The headlines are that we will continue to work in partnership to make sure that we maintain a diverse supply of information and advice for local people, building on what we know already works. The shared intention to maintain diversity has come about through years of working together for local people and recognising that there is great value in services that offer ‘wrap around’ support. So, for instance, if you are homeless and go to Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness you will get legal advice about your situation and also guidance on practical support to resolve your problems – possibly help to find somewhere to stay that night and links to other agencies that might help to overcome longer term problems. Again, if you are a refugee and need legal advice about your rights to reside or your welfare benefits, you could go to Refugee Action Kingston and find help on this as well as ideas about where other members of your community may be meeting socially or where you can get help to learn English.
Citizens Advice Kingston acts as the Single Front Door to all local information and advice services so if you do not know where is the best place to get help, you can contact us and we will make sure that we help you to get the best source of help. It may be a partner agency or it might be us! We offer detailed help on all topics to all members of the local community with our approach of ‘whoever you are: whatever the problem’. This also means that we can help provide services to people from specific client groups if/when other agencies are at capacity.
Key elements of the strategy involve working together to make sure that local people can quickly and easily get information and advice through a range of channels – online self help, drop in information centres and face to face appointments for more complex issues. The strategy also notes that it is really important for us all to understand what each agency does so that we can refer clients to colleagues in other agencies when this is going to be the best thing for the client. Our online directory of members services and what they offer really helps with this.
One of the really important parts of the strategy is the note of links with other key strategies operating in Kingston. This means that information and advice is recognised and used as a vital support system for local people – helping them to avoid problems arising and also to solve problems when they do occur. So, information and advice supports strategies such as the Kingston Plan, The Active and Supportive Communities Strategy, the Mental Health plans, the Housing Strategy, the Better Lives Project etc.
Why does any of this matter? It’s all really simple – with good, quick, easy and early information and advice local agencies can be the fence at the top of the cliff, rather than the ambulance at the bottom.. which is not only the right thing to do in human terms but also saves money too.