A ‘different’ year to say the least!

By Anita Jaynes on 28 December, 2020

Les Redwood, CEO of Citizens Advice B&NES reflects on the highs and lows of 2020. 

As we head into 2021, I reflect on an incredibly challenging year. Our charity has developed in exactly the way that was planned despite the ever-changing operational circumstances of Covid-19. 

We have seen positive progress through our four key strategic partnership projects: The Compassionate Community Hub; our new Debt Advice Club; our enhanced DWP Partnerships; and our new partnership around a Bath Spa University Law Clinic. 

A year that started on such a positive note, with a Royal Visit from HRH Princess Anne, has ended in another lockdown and remote working for us as an organisation. 

Her Royal Highness (HRH), The Princess Royal visited Citizens Advice B&NES in February 2020.

It has indeed been a rollercoaster and we have had to adapt accordingly as a charity.

Earlier this year we completed a full cloud migration using Microsoft Office 365, allowing us all to work together remotely and stay in touch via Teams. We have also adapted the way we use our office in Edgar Buildings, allowing us to provide a limited, Covid-secure face-to-face offer here for those most in need or unable to access our services online.

We have had to consider all options and apply for extra support, such as the Government’s BEIS and Kickstart funding as well as the Money and Pensions Advice funding announced earlier this year. 

We have instigated a new “triage” call system to handle more enquiries remotely and our website has been updated and continues to do well. 

We have been able to upskill volunteers with the increased Training Supervisor resource and we are also part of the national Citizens Advice volunteer recruitment drive, helping us to prepare for the anticipated tsunami of extra enquiries over the coming months.

Our three-year strategic business plan has been updated to reflect the operational challenges of Covid and it has also been aligned with our original ‘six pillar strategy’ which guides us in our aim to deliver a sustainable, growing and successful Citizens Advice B&NES. 

Turning to our Business Development and Fundraising delivery, the excellent continuing support from St Johns Foundation allowed this work to flourish under Doug Eason’s stewardship; our Trusts and Foundations work has been most successful. 

We are hoping that regular donations will increase with our full 80,000 leaflet mail out across B&NES and we have also applied for extra Help to Claim DWP monies alongside numerous other grants and funding. 

This year has shown that we need to work together more than ever now to succeed. I must pay huge thanks and gratitude to our brilliant staff team, our amazing volunteers, our trustees and our strategic partners B&NES Council, VirginCare and B&NES 3SG. Thank you all! 

Lastly, I want to add a personal thanks to Anita, Sian and the incredible Business Exchange team – we really could not do it without you. Thank you so much for all your help and support to this region and its community in a truly different year! 

Keep safe and well – and here’s to a happy and healthy 2021 to us all! 

To find out more about Citizens Advice B&NES visit: www.citizensadvicebanes.org.uk