Allison Warner, Citizens Advice – interview.

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After another interview from our very own Bigg Nevv with Allison Warner of Citizens Advice we discussed the Citizens Advice organisation in Great Yarmouth and the work it does for the community, here’s the summery.

On the topic of how the Citizens Advice service used to work Nevv stated that “100 years ago, everyone used to use it, I think that the organisation has changed slightly” Allison suggested that “there’s a desire to get up to date with the modern world” which has made the organisation have to adapt to use technology rather than conventional means. She then went on to say that one of the organizations main priorities is acting as a debt advice service.

Discussing the situation with staff Allison told us that “from time to time it is difficult to get volunteers,if anyone who is listening would like to be a CA volunteer we would love to have you.” She was then asked “how do you become a CA volunteer”. To which she responded “you can go online and there’s an application through that, you can also go to  the bureau and apply there, do come into stone cutters you will be so welcome. our telephone line is 01603 660857.”

She went on to describe a “drop in service” that had started “at the hospital [James Paget] started in July” and that the CA have focused on research on debt.She then went on to describe “one of the themes was that people with mental health problems have more problems with debt, on the back of that we were offered some funding, we were looking at some ways to spend that money, and an interesting approach nobody else has tried. she then told us that her organization provided an “acute service in the hospital, we go on a ward twice a week to people going through treatment, those discharged and others. the services we provide are available to all those people.”

Onto the matter of what her objective in hospitals is she stated that “if you are mentally ill and personal affairs have gotten into chaos, unravelling this is a tedious process. going on to describe how  people often start with short appointments and by the time they are mentally able to face problems they have all the info.

Onto the matter of why the CA is so essential Allison was quizzed with the question “why is it now that when you come out of school people don’t know how to do basic essentials for living independently?”She replied “in my opinion i think at one time certainly when i was growing up if you were a father working full time it was enough to feed the family, there was a lot of support in the community that isn’t there any more. we were in a cash based society that is now is an electronic based society. nowadays it is very very easy to get a loan, I’m angry about the ease of people picking up a high interest loan. many people aren’t equipped to deal with that financial acquirement.”

“Is the understanding behind loans skewed” asked Nevv. “very often, from CA research the findings suggest that people aren’t borrowing to pay for luxuries, they are borrowing to pay for essentials. people are poorer, there’s less money to spend on essentials and we now live in a debt fuelled society. I see people every month, ordinary people off the street in debt because they cant afford, gas and water rates are too high now. people don’t get loans because they went to Disneyland for a month.

“Can you see it getting any better. do you think that the basics are were they were”. Said Nevv whom was at the time describing how he “never moans” about anything because he thinks back to how his parents coped. Allison replied  “when you’re looking back at your past its easy to see it in a romantic way, in relation to poverty today people have higher expectations, nowadays you wouldn’t send kid to school in same shirt for 2 days running, and you get stigmatized for not conforming. There’s a lot of that, grooming is far more important than it ever was, people have to present a good image or are penalized and miss out on opportunities.”

“What kinda skills would you need” Nevv asked Allison in regards to being part of CA. “Its good if you can listen to people, basic research skills and basic IT skills, willingness to give up the time around one day a week. There are vacancies for admin and reception duties. you would go through some training and gain a paper qualification from it. Some of it is self training some of it is with a teacher, you go through the basic training then you start to see some people, then further training and at the end of probably a year and 50 hours training, you are a full advisor. its worth doing. Your knowledge base grows exponentially.

Nevv then questioned the foreign nationals that use the service and how the organization adapts to the language barriers. Allison said that they are learning how to “we see lots of foreign nationals,lots of people working in poultry farms, we do struggle sometimes with language, a lot of times people with bring a friend to help them. we use a  language line on the phone, we have used Google translate, we try to be as creative as we can, they receive the same advice as everybody else, we cant always resolve problems but we can always do something. we can give them time to solve problems. We also often refer the users to others for example: lawyers, specialist employment advisor, refer people to shelter, if we don’t know it we often know a man who can.”

The CA are located on Stonecutters way and are open on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30-12:30.if you haven’t got an appointment nobody will see you. Send us the questions about the CA and we will ask Allison live on air. send your questions to studio@harbourradio.co.uk.

You can listen the Audio Interview below:

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