A new partnership approach for delivering integrated advice and information service to citizens in Birmingham is due before the city council’s Cabinet on March 22.
The plans have been drawn up by a group of providers known as Gateway to Birmingham Advice Services (GBAS) – a partnership of 15 organisations providing advice services in the city (including the likes of the CAB, Freshwinds, Birmingham Settlement, Shelter, Age UK etc).
The council has played its part in the process but has not been the lead agency. The new strategy focusses around the following key areas:
– Integration of advice provision
– Shifting from crisis to prevention advice
– Moving from high cost interventions(face-to-face) to lower cost interventions (phone/webchat)
It has already gained informal support from all organisations involved in its development to date and Cabinet are now being asked to adopt the strategy.
The report to councillors also outlines that the change is being driven by a need to make budget savings as a result of the well-publicised central government budget cuts to local councils.
The Neighbourhood Office service has a cumulative saving target of £1.3m to achieve. Its net budget before savings in 2015/16 was £2.633m and this reduces to £1.319m by 2016/17.
By taking this partnership approach and maximising the use of all access channels (an increased number of locations) and focussing face to face advice for the more complex cases it has been possible to deliver the required levels of savings.
The plans have been consulted on widely with the Executive Members for Districts during 2014/15. A period of public consultation also ran in late 2015 and early 2016.
Cllr Shafique Shah, Cabinet Member for Inclusion and Community Safety, added: “It is vitally important we have a neighbourhood advice and information service that helps those in need as there are many people that rely on support from others.
“What we have done by working with community organisations is let those at the grass roots take a lead in shaping the best way forward, given the reduced funding we have.
“We know people prefer face-to-face interaction, but there is still significant support for a move to dealing with simple queries by phone. This partnership approach is designed to ensure the changes create the minimum disruption possible, whilst offering a good standard of service for those that need to access advice services.”
Janice Nichols, Chief Executive of Birmingham Citizens Advice Bureau Service, Vice Chair of GBAS Strategic Oversight Group, added: “The Gateway to Birmingham Advice Services (GBAS) worked on the integrated advice strategy because we recognise how important it is to work in partnership if we are to provide people with the advice services they need across the city.
“People in Birmingham need to be able to access high quality, effective advice services through a variety of channels.
“This new model for working together ensures we make the most of the resources we have between us and partners such as Birmingham City Council, by avoiding duplication and sharing expertise and premises where we can.”
If approved by councillors, a minimum of 45 days’ consultation will take place with staff and it is anticipated the new model would be fully operational by the end of the 2016/17 financial year.
For further media information contact Kris Kowalewski on 0121 303 3621
Notes to Editors
Gateway to Birmingham Advice Services (GBAS) Membership –
• Action for Blind People
• Age UK
• Birmingham CAB
• Birmingham Community Law Centre
• Birmingham Settlement
• Birmingham Tribunal Unit
• BITA pathways
• Castle Vale Tenants and Residents Association (CVTRA)
• Disability Resource Centre
• Gateway Family Services
• Momentum Skills
To access the full report going to Cabinet, please visit the CMIS committee report system (ITEM 20G)
For media information please contact Kris Kowalewski on 0121 303 3621