2021 – 2024
The aim of this plan is to provide a clear direction for the Citizens Advice in East Dorset and Purbeck service from April 2021 to March 2024.
The plan has been written at a time of unprecedented change both for our clients and for the voluntary sector as a whole. Our intention is to provide the best possible service for our residents as they start to recover from the Covid pandemic and look to the future. Uncertain economic times are expected to be with us for at least the next few years and the impact on Dorset residents will depend in part upon our work. To aid a strong and resilient recovery in Dorset, this work will need to provide accurate and timely advice and information and will also need to connect local people with the widest range of support, both financial and for wellbeing.
In order to realise the aims in the plan, core funding needs to be secured. The first task therefore is to be successful in our application to the Dorset Council Information, Advice & Guidance service commissioning process in the Spring/Summer of 2021. This will allow the three local Citizens Advice, Bridport & District, Central Dorset and East Dorset & Purbeck, to build on their established joint working as members of Citizens Advice in Dorset (CAiD) and to deliver a truly Dorset wide service whilst still anchoring to their local communities.
To meet the considerable challenges ahead the service will need to learn from how it adapted to the pandemic from March 2020. This learning will inform innovation and change in how we develop our channels of advice, develop new partnerships and how we support our staff and volunteers to maintain good health regardless of where they are located. Central to the challenge is the principle to be robust in how we call out discrimination and truly promote diversity. We must build on our already strong equalities work but also understand that there is still much to do in order for us to truly represent the diverse community that is Dorset. This work is about delivering support to parts of our community who have been marginalised in the past.
Chair of Trustee Board
The purpose of the Business Plan is to provide an overview of the current service, the role it plays in the wider community, and to set the context for the service activities and developments planned for the next three years.
This Business Plan takes us through to 2024 and sets out the organisation’s approach to developing a responsive, innovative and sustainable service that meets our communities’ current and future needs.
The Plan provides a strategic overview, agreed by the Trustee Board which shows the 3yr strategic direction of travel and an operational plan detailing how the strategic objectives will be delivered. The operational plan focuses in detail on the first 12 months, so it can also be used as a management action tool.
The Risk Assessment is linked to the plan but it has been prepared as a separate document.
The structure of the plan is based on the three stages of business planning:
- Where are we now (a series of factual appendices)
- Where do we want to be (the Strategic Priorities)
- How do we get there (the Strategy Implementation Plan, SIP)
The Plan has been devised with Equality, Diversity and Inclusion principles embedded. It is also constructed so that our Research and Campaign work is integrated with our objectives and work plans, not held as a separate, stand-alone action plan. Action taken and tasks completed to further these two foundational aspirations will be reported to the Trustee Board on a regular basis through the routine updates on the SIP.
Training and development for all team members in relation to Research and Campaigns and Equalities issues will be covered in the Training plan for the team and will include online courses as well as local events. There are clearly stated Equalities goals in our high level strategy document which will drive all our work plans and actions.
We have identified some priority areas for our campaign work (which are rooted in our priorities relating to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Our campaigns will often be completed as part of the Dorset R&C Group. They are (not an exhaustive list as we will respond to issues as they arise during the year). Issues with Universal Credit – especially delays in payments, confusion over advance payment recovery, conditionality allocation. Issues involving mental health – especially post Covid. Issues of food security and fuel poverty. The Trustee Board will carry out a risk assessment for our involvement in local and national campaigns – e.g. campaigning about Universal Credit work will be done in a way that does not bring the national brand into conflict with the DWP but does provide evidence of issues faced by claimants.
This plan sets out our activities for the period April 2021 to March 2024 and a detailed SIP for the period April 2021 to March 2022. The plan will be used to monitor progress and report quarterly to the Trustee Board.
The plan and risk matrix will be reviewed:
- Quarterly by the Trustee Board with updated SIP, client activity data and risk assessment.
- Annually, with the Trustee Board agreement being sought in June 2021 for the 2021–2024 plan and the risk assessment.
Statement of Purpose
We give people the knowledge and the confidence they need to find their way forward – whoever they are, and whatever their problem. Flowing from this, we aim to improve policies and practice that affect their lives.
We offer an accessible multi-channel service to the community in Dorset. The service to clients is based on the needs of the local community, including people who are disadvantaged through social or digital exclusion, including rural isolation, and/or discrimination.
We give free, confidential, independent and impartial advice to anyone, regardless of age, disability, ethnic origin, gender, race, religious belief or sexual orientation.
We are a person-centred organisation that is responsive to the needs of our clients, volunteers, staff and partners. We are committed to working in a way that promotes respect, dignity and equality for all. We passionately believe that we are all equal through our common humanity; we work to eliminate discrimination and empower our clients.
We aim to be a service that is recognised locally and nationally for its impact, quality, innovation and contribution to addressing inequality and disadvantage.
The Covid pandemic created an urgent need to review how we delivered services to the community. The core service has traditionally been delivered from local offices and outreaches on either a drop-in basis or through an appointment based system. Specific grant funded projects were based around both appointments and/or home visits. The need for social isolation and social distancing reduced the ability to provide face to face services and resulted in new approaches to meeting client demand. The service will need to continue to evolve to ensure that these ways of delivering a remote service continue to be developed and integrated into a new model of service delivery. There is also the need to ensure that those who are digitally disadvantaged or marginalised are not excluded and access to face to face appointments is maintained.
As a client led service our vision is to provide help to our clients in the right place at the right time, through whichever channel suits them best.
As well as opportunities to develop new skills and experience for staff and volunteers there are opportunities to expand advice knowledge particularly in high demand areas such as employment and benefits.
The wellbeing of our staff and volunteers is as important as the wellbeing of our clients. The new ways of working, with a blend of remote and office based, will need to address the social and isolation considerations needed to ensure the workforce is well supported.
We place equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at the heart of what we do. It emphasises the importance we place on valuing and embracing the diversity of our clients, staff and volunteers and we work to eliminate discrimination and our belief that we are all equal through our common humanity. We champion equality within our EDI Strategy.
We will continue to work in partnership with the other Dorset offices. We will need to be ready to adapt to the changing external funding environment and the expected challenges that we may face with the future of our core funding. We will work in partnership with other organisations to offer a joined up and efficient service for our clients. Some of our partners fund specialised projects and we work closely with others to enhance our service.
We will look for opportunities to be innovative, where possible anticipating challenges and needs, and generating funding to address development. The funding and fundraising climate has become considerably more challenging in recent years. The identification and pursuit of additional sources of income remains a priority. In recent years, projects have accounted for a significant percentage of our total income. We aim to have a diverse income stream and work hard on fundraising from a range of sources. Our Fundraising Strategy and budget projections demonstrate how this will be achieved.
We will continue to fulfil the dual aims of the Citizens Advice service by prioritising both our clients and our Research and Campaign work. We will seek to improve our data collection processes to enable us to provide meaningful evidence based reports with the expectation that we will continue to influence improvements in policy both locally and nationally.
1. Accessible Advice
The provision of quality advice for everyone when they need it, where they need it, by whatever channel they require, to support their need. Target advice to traditionally underrepresented and marginalised groups as well as areas of deprivation. Address the needs of those who are digitally disadvantaged.
Cultivate trust with staff, volunteers and clients, in order to achieve resilience and emerge safe in the post-pandemic scenario. Actively promote good mental health amongst our teams and our clients. Provide flexible models of working and ensure we do our best to ensure everyone is well supported. We will achieve greater diversity and equality of opportunity within our workforce and support our members to embed equality and diversity practices to create an inclusive working environment service-wide.
3. Champion EDI
Equality, diversity and inclusion sit at the core of the culture of Citizens Advice. It is held as a strategic priority within our vision, mission and values. We will ensure that our services are accessible to a diverse range of people, including those at a greater risk of disadvantage, detriment or harm, and that our clients’ experiences and outcomes are positive. We’ll be a stronger voice on the issues that matter most to the people who come to us for help.
Develop existing and promote new partnerships with stakeholders and funders where this will benefit services for Dorset residents. Develop partnerships which increase diversity, inclusion and representation amongst our local communities. Work collectively to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the service in Dorset. Seek external project funding, either independently or in partnership with other organisations so that services to the community can be maintained or enhanced.
5. Innovate and Anticipate
Use digital transformation where appropriate to ensure we are well equipped and resourced to respond to future demands for our services. This will include being able to meet the changing expectations of our volunteers and clients through our use of remote working, provision of on-line advice, use of social networking and the opening hours and locations of our traditional office-based advice service.
Develop and contribute to Research and Campaign activity that leads to improvements in national and local policy and practice. This will be done locally through various mediums including the Dorset Research & Campaigns Group which is made up by members of the three Dorset LCAs and through local publicity and social media. Evidence forms completed locally feed into the issues that National Cit A take forward.