The Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association (FNA) has joined with several other local advice agencies to continue to offer free advice to Westminster residents in the wake of a 100 percent cut in our grant for advice by Westminster City Council.
One initiative is the ‘Reform Advice in Westminster Project’, funded from the Cabinet Office and administered by the Big Lottery, which will look at what’s known as ‘system failure’. A large proportion of advice work deals with mistakes made by the Department for Work and Pensions and Council departments like Housing and Housing Benefit which, besides the stress and worry they cause, often put people at risk of homelessness, debt and hunger.
Recent cuts to Legal Aid have made it much more difficult for people to appeal these decisions. The project will focus on how often these mistakes happen, how long they take to sort out and what kinds of questions are usually involved. The second year of the project will make recommendations about how these mistakes can be avoided by the government departments involved, and how advice work in the Westminster area can be streamlined and improved.
The FNA will be hiring a member of staff for two days a week over the coming year to deliver the project in partnership with the Migrants Resource Centre, the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K) and Westminster Citizens Advice Bureau (WCAB).
The FNA will also be hosting a multilingual advice worker from Westminster CAB for one day a week as part of its outreach service. She will be taking pre-booked appointments only. Westminster CAB based in Conduit Street, Paddington, won a contract in a competitive tendering process to deliver general advice services throughout the City of Westminster from this September.
Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association has been running a free, independent advice service in Fitzrovia since 1975. The service is available to both Westminster and Camden residents, despite the FNA receiving no funding from Camden Council since 2011. FNA provides housing, welfare and debt advice on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Languages include English, Bengali, Sylheti and Urdu.