RAN’s First Advice Forum
"Sector Policy Issues: Setting the Scene"
To better understand the issues affecting the Information and Advice sector, and inform our work as we became its “voice”, we decided that our First Forum should “set the scene” and focus on highlighting the most important social policy issues arising in our Members' work with the people and communities of Reading.
The forum started with presentations from representatives from the following Member Organisations:
- Mike Allen – Age UK Berkshire
- Ian Caren – Launchpad
- Sue Richards – Citizens Advice Reading
The group discussions that followed were facilitated by Polly Falconer from Graft.
The presentations highlighted the issues their staff and volunteers encountered most often in their work with clients. These were broadly divided into four main policy areas that were then discussed in groups:
- Older people
- Vulnerable people (disabled, sensory impairment, mental health)
- People whose first language is not English
A fifth group considered the voluntary sector’s relationship to funders and the effects funding cuts are having on their capacity to work effectively.
We have produced a full account of the Forum which can be downloaded here.
Alternatively, you might like to download the Summary Report which was sent to key Reading Borough Council Councillors and Officers.
The main issues raised
- Housing: The lack of appropriate housing in Reading, together with the prejudice many Landlords have against renting to people on benefits.
- Older People: The increasing complexity of the problems older people face, together with the difficulty in accessing the support they need as this becomes more IT dependent, and reductions in public transport facilities, are leaving many feeling more and more alienated and isolated.
- Vulnerable People: The multiple, and often complex, problems affecting vulnerable people, many of which take time to come to surface, are made more difficult to resolve by the high turnover of social services staff.
- People whose First Language is Not English: Many in this group may have an innate distrust of authority and State interventions, or come from cultures in which State support is minimal. So particular efforts need to be made to reach these people and build trust.
Furthermore, there were several issues common to all groups. These were:
- The increasing prevalence of mental health problems (the subject of our Second Forum)
- The damaging effect on clients of greater service specialisation and funding cuts which results in individuals being referred to several different organisations to gain the support they need.
Support for RAN
The participants welcomed RAN's initiative in organising the Forum and agreed there was a need for:
- more “joined up thinking” and “effective partnership”
- increased awareness of the voluntary sector’s services
- greater opportunities for sector organisations to share “best practice”
- a “voice for the sector” to help shape service provision
What has happened since
Richard Harrison (Chair) and Hazel Wright (Vice-Chair) were invited to meet with Graham Wilkin (RBC Interim Director of Health and Adult Social Care) in June 2017 to discuss a number of the recommendations that were set out in the Summary Report.
The meeting was constructive and it was clear that the Council was taking the issues seriously. Graham Wilkin explained that RBC was rolling out a new Adult and Social Care strategy based on “personalisation” and developing a better workforce strategy. The full report of this meeting is available here.