Working with Help and Care and Dorset Race Equality Council CAiD provides information and advice on health and social care issues as part of Healthwatch Dorset. Commissioned by the three authorities (Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole) this service is now established as the ‘consumer voice for health issues’ with three inter-related functions: community engagement, information and advice, and influencing service provision and development. In the second year (2014/15 the 9 Citizens Advice offices dealt with 1,155 clients who had a total of 1,773 health and care issues (213/14: 1,488 issues); CAB client experiences have been included in several reports including a review of Primary Dental Care Services in Dorset.
Dorset AdviceLine is a locally based Virtual Call Centre for Dorset which was launched in October 2012. This provides improved access to telephone advice for people living in Dorset and Poole, 10 – 4, Monday to Friday; there is also close alignment with colleagues running the Bournemouth AdviceLine.
This service has not only benefited clients, it has resulted in much closer working across the 9 Citizens Advice offices, to improve the quality of service and effective transfers between offices when people need a follow-up appointment.
Funding from Dorset County Council supports six advisers who work in their local Children’s Centres one day a week. Advisers run sessions at a variety of times and locations often when other activities such as ‘baby weighing’ and ‘stay and play’ take place. In 2014/15 we saw 194 new clients and dealt with 643 new issues; nearly half of these were about benefits, debt and money issues; another significant enquiry area is around maternity rights, returning to work, and finding affordable childcare. We gained in excess of £50,000 in benefits for families, plus a further £5,000 of backdated payments. Parents find it easier to get advice in a familiar and child-friendly setting, and liaison between adviser and Children’s Centre staff make this a very good example of effective partnership work.
There are two local Macmillan-funded services; one based at Poole Citizens Advice covering Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch, and the other managed from Dorchester Citizens Advice covering the county. The two services work closely together through CAiD.
These services are provided by a team of highly-skilled and experienced advisers who provide significant support to people at a very difficult time in their lives. There are significant financial outcomes (benefits and grants awarded) , and the wider impact of the support on the lives of patients and their families is also very important.