Wednesday 24 April 2019 06:41:13 PM

Business As Usual For Community Advice
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Citizens Advice is to undergo a name change.

The Regional Office of the Citizens Advice Northern Ireland went into administration early in 2018.

Following this, discussions have taken place between the government departments and with the 13 Citizens Advice bureaux across Northern Ireland and with the England and Wales administration which is a separate legal entity from that in Northern Ireland.

The familiar Citizens Advice logo will be replaced from 1st January by a new one – Community Advice – following a reshuffle of service provision.

Both the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland along with and Citizens Advice England & Wales have worked with all local offices across Northern Ireland in the hope that the brand would remain. Unfortunately, because of the size of the liabilities, Citizens Advice in England & Wales were unable to absorb the administration in Northern Ireland and keep the advice service under one corporate banner.

Rosemarie McDonnell, Manager of the local Citizens Advice in Newry Mourne & Down, said:  “The Trustee Board for Citizens Advice Newry Mourne & Down would like to reassure everyone who needs our advice and support that we are open for business as usual. We receive our funding from the Department for Communities through our local Council and this will continue allowing us to provide a quality service to all citizens in the District.

The only change that local people will see is a name change and we will become ‘Community Advice Newry Mourne & Down’ from the 1st January 2019.

“The debts incurred by the Regional Office of Citizens Advice had absolutely nothing to do with any local office as each local office is an Independent Charity in its own right responsible for their own finances.

“Citizens Advice Newry Mourne & Down is financially secure and will continue to offer high quality services throughout the District.

“I have been working very closely with my own Trustee Board and other local Citizens Advice Managers to ensure the smooth and consistent delivery of excellent advice services to the public that Citizens Advice are recognised for and will continue to do so.”

Julia GilliesWilkes, Head of Local Relationships and Change at Citizens Advice in England and Wales said:  “Despite lengthy discussions with the Department for Communities (DfC), unfortunately we are not able to take on the membership role previously fulfilled by Citizens Advice Northern Ireland.

“This is because neither the DfC nor Citizens Advice England and Wales are able to take on financial liabilities that may result from the insolvency of Citizens Advice Northern Ireland.

“We have worked extremely hard to find a solution and it is with regret that the Citizens Advice brand will no longer operate on High streets in Northern Ireland.

“The 13 bureaux in Northern Ireland are independently funded organisations and so there will be no impact on people’s abilities to access free and independent advice.”

With the increased workload with Universal Credit issues, and the usual January post Christmas debt and credit issues, the advocacy sector in Northern Ireland has faced a strong demand for its services.

It is understood that the advocacy services in the 13 bureaux area will continue seamlessly with no reduction and a re-branding exercise will take place . Staff and volunteer training will be ongoing to meet the demands of the advocacy service, and there will be no cuts in staff or volunteer levels.