By Rachel Howley, Director – Citizens Advice Greater Manchester
Citizens Advice Greater Manchester (CAGM) is a consortium of all 10 GM local Citizens Advice services. In March they escalated plans with GMCA to launch a new helpline service to all GM residents in direct response to the critical situation we faced with the Coronavirus Pandemic. In the space of 4 just weeks they set up an Out of Hours Emergency Support Service for vulnerable people facing crisis or emergency across GM via a clear, single point of contact. On April 19th, they officially launched their new Helpline to all residents of Greater Manchester, funded by a £100,000 grant from the GMCA.
The Helpline is available for all GM residents to call Monday to Sunday from 7pm to 10pm on 0161 850 5053. Calls are charged at local rates. This service will increase access to generalist and specialist advice: Debt and Money, Welfare Rights and access to Benefits, Housing and Mortgage, Employment.
In addition, the service will also increase access to specialist support from a joined up, comprehensive network of Greater Manchester agencies. Initially through the GMVCSE Leadership Group, CAGM will build up a strong holistic network of external partners to signpost clients to support for mental health and suicide prevention, employment, foodbanks, domestic violence, young people older, people, family, and immigration,
Through the suspension of most face to face services as a result of Covid-19, they are particularly interested to explore how they can support the most vulnerable and hard to reach clients through new technology.
A further objective of the project is to improve the strategic partnerships with Foodbanks. CAGM will work together with local Foodbanks across GM to develop a better understanding of how the services can work more seamlessly together. This will include a dedicated CAGM Campaign to highlight, combat and alleviate food poverty, linking into the current GM Food Poverty Action Plan.
CAGM will work closely with GMCA to spot occurring trends across GM as a direct result of the pandemic including: welfare reform including Universal Credit; debt; employment including furlough, redundancy and discrimination; unemployment, particularly 16-24 year olds; housing including mortgage and rent and landlord tenant issues.