In just three months between August and October, nearly 3000 people have been able to get advice through the pilot One Lambeth Advice service, run in partnership between Lambeth council and the Merton & Lambeth Citizens Advice Bureau (MLCAB).
The scheme is set to be expanded across the borough, making it easier for more people to get impartial and informed advice.
The council and the existing advice agencies have been working together for months to develop the new One Lambeth Advice service which has a single Freephone number, website and email address. This reduces duplication costs, improves monitoring and provides greater access to a range of expert advice through Citizens Advice Bureaux, Lambeth Law Centre and other specialists and will actually provide 100 extra hours a week for casework, meaning people won’t have to wait so long to get advice.
There will still be drop-in advice and information at Brixton, West Norwood, Kennington and Streatham so residents who are shy of using the internet or the phone can still get help. Lambeth council will additionally support Waterloo Action Centre and other advice agencies with funding to ensure that valuable evening legal advice surgeries, offered by local lawyers on a pro bono basis can continue.
One Lambeth Advice will also see 20 new Advice Guides – volunteers who are trained and recruited by CAB – in other community venues like GP surgeries, libraries and Children’s Centres who’ll help residents use the One Lambeth Advice web site/internet and support them to access the web chat and phone line.
Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for Finance, Cllr Paul McGlone said: “Cuts to Legal Aid, changes to welfare, money worries and increased homelessness mean there’s growing demand for advice. Lambeth council has traditionally supported a range of advice services across the borough which have overlapped and been confusing and difficult to access. We wanted to make changes so it’s easier for residents to find the advice they need and to reduce what we spend on duplicating services needlessly.
“It’s simply unacceptable to make residents queue up to get advice, with no guarantee of being seen, when we can provide the option of supporting them by phone and booking appointments for them to see a caseworker if they really need one, without them leaving the house. We couldn’t make this change without agencies being willing to work differently and to accept less funding in some cases but One Lambeth Advice will help more people, make advice easier and quicker to get and see us spending what we do have more efficiently.”
John Gillies from CAB said: “One Lambeth Advice has really brought the advice sector together, dramatically improved access for Lambeth residents, started to make queues a thing of the past and enabled people to get the help that they need where, when and in the way that they need it. “