Citizen’s Advice Bureau
Whilst the success story known as Brexit continues to dominate life at Westminster it’s good to do normal things in the constituency not least when that involves some good news. I attended the AGM of the Conwy Citizens Advice Bureau last week. Conwy CAB does a significant amount of good work and I am proud of the fantastic relationship that my office has with their committed team. We might not always agree on specific issues, but we know that policy disagreements will never get in the way of supporting constituents and those seeking support and if CAB can help us or we can help them I know that’s what will happen.
It has not been an easy period for CAB but the dedication and hard work of both volunteers and paid staff have ensured that services have continued to be provided despite financial challenges. One big area of work which has resulted in nine years of co-operation (and occasional policy disagreements) between my office and CAB has been welfare reform and the roll-out of Universal Credit. I was particularly pleased therefore to have a presentation from Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) officers and CAB staff on the much improved and seamless support being offered to claimants by the new partnership between CAB and DWP. Having argued for such an approach and partnership for several years it was music to my ears as both organisations highlighted the very real advantages to claimants of both organisations working together.
For all of us, change is never welcome and that is undoubtedly the case for those facing the transition on to the new Universal Credit system. It therefore makes a huge amount of sense that claimants can be supported through the process not just by the dedicated team of job centre staff but also by staff and volunteers from the CAB. In effect, where an individual is nervous or needing support the new partnership allows a CAB advice worker to offer support, re-assurance and guidance through the process. This of course leads to fewer mistakes and a much more effective level of service being provided as the transfer from existing benefits to Universal credit is undertaken. I was impressed with everything I heard and was delighted that such an obvious way forward (formal co-operation) is paying dividends. If only we could have done this earlier!
I will probably witness my last Queen’s Speech this week when we have the State Opening of Parliament. This is all part of the pomp and ceremony of our constitutional history here in the UK, but I wonder whether things have changed for ever in view of the challenges face by our unwritten constitution over the past few years of Brexit mayhem. We all know that a Queen’s Speech is basically the monarch being asked to read out the aims and aspirations of her Government. I wonder, since this Government has repeatedly stated a desire for an early General Election, whether the Queen should be asked to read out what amounts to a party-political broadcast? It seems that our Prime Minister cares no more about the integrity of our monarch than he does about his own reputation for lacking honesty.