Founded in 1973, Waltham Forest Citizens Advice Bureau Service (WFCAB)’s primary role is to give legal advice, information and support to the local residents of Waltham Forest. Below we outline some facts about us and the borough we serve.
WFCAB Background information
Statement of purpose of the Waltham Forest CAB Service
Our purpose is to deliver a high quality, general advice and information service, as well as specialised advice products. In 2011 we created a new Money and Debt Advice Service, aimed at preventative money and debt work. We deliver our advice services in different ways; by face to face access in our offices and by expanding outreach, by home visits, through telephone advice, email and web based resources. Many of our clients have very little money and need benefits help; others face homelessness, unfair dismissal, or may fear deportation etc. We know that we are the only form of local support that is available to them, especially during the current economic situation.
We monitor who uses our service and ask our clients what they think of us. It is important to learn from suggestions for improvement, and we will are not afraid to change. Our overriding goal is to ensure that all sections of our local community have equal confidence in the high quality service that we endeavour to provide, and that is how we believe we should ultimately be measured.
Background information about Waltham Forest
Waltham Forest is an outer London borough with a population in the region of 222,000 people. The population is extremely diverse, with large settled communities of people who self-designate as Pakistani, Black Caribbean Black African ,and non-British white. In terms of size, these communities are above London averages. The total number of residents in the borough to self-designate as someone other than ‘white British’ comes to 48%. In more recent years there has been a considerable influx of people from eastern Europe, which is reflected in CAB client profile data.
Waltham Forest is sometimes described as ‘an outer London borough with inner London problems’. This description relates to the pockets of severe deprivation within its borders. The Borough is made up of Leytonstone and Leyton in the south, which by and large has the older/poorer housing stock; Chingford, in the north, is generally considered the wealthiest area but with a concentration of elderly people, a number of whom have disability and benefit problems; and Walthamstow in the centre.
The distance between North Chingford and the southern area of Leytonstone is 7.5 miles (12 kilometres). By way of context, that’s the same distance between southern Leytonstone and Charing Cross Station in central London. In such a large borough, travelling to seek advice can be a significant journey.
Waltham Forest has a relatively young population, with 20% below the age of 16, and another 13.2% aged 16 to 24. At the other end of the spectrum, Waltham Forest has 10.2% of its population aged 60+, which compares to 16.4% for London as a whole.
Unemployment and employment rates
The rate of unemployment in Waltham Forest is 9.7%, compared to the national average of 7.9%. The recession seems to have hit younger people disproportionately: the rate of unemployment in Waltham Forest for 16 to 24 year males is 28.8%, and 15.4% for females within that age band.
The overall rate of employment in Waltham Forest (WF) is 65.7%, compared to 70.1% in London, and 73.7% in the UK. For those in work, WF is one of the worst four London boroughs so far as the proportion of workers living on low pay is concerned – see below.
Level of pay
Using the criteria of earning £7.50pw as a benchmark, more that 17% of the WF resident population earns below this figure, and more than 20% of the people working in WF earn less than £7.50pw. The London average is 11% earning below £7.50pw, by area of residence. These figures mean that our local residents are more likely to need or depend on ‘in work’ benefits. The percentage of the WF working population that depends on benefits to supplement their incomes is 16%. The London and national average is 14%.
Welfare benefits claims
Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) is the main benefit for unemployed people. The Waltham Forest JSA claim rate is 6%, compared to the London average of 4.5%, and the national average of 4.2%. The number of people claiming JSA in WF rose by 44% in the 12 month period October 2008 to October 2009.
The rate of unemployment across various ethic groups varies considerably. For example, the rate of Pakistani/Bangladeshi unemployment is 28.7%, which is significantly higher that for other groups.
Overall, approximately 16% of all adults in WF receive out-of-work benefits, compared to the London average of 14%. Within WF, between 32% and 34% of all households with dependant children receive out-of-work benefits.
Between 28% and 36% of all pensioner households in WF depend on the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (this being the means tested element of Pension Credit claimed by poorer pensioners). The average rate of Guarantee Credit dependency in outer and north east London is only 18%.
Waltham Forest is one of the four worst London boroughs in terms of the rate of newly homeless people. In 2007, 1.5% of households in WF were newly recognised as homeless, compared to the London average of 0.7%. The WF rate is seven times higher than in Richmond for example, one of London’s more wealthy boroughs. Recent data confirms that WF has the third highest mortgage repossession rate in London.
Ill health and disability
Waltham Forest is within the worst eight London boroughs in terms of the rate of infant mortality, and within the worst eight boroughs in London in terms of reported long standing illness/disability (13 to 15% in WF). The comparable average in outer London is 11%. Anti-depressant prescription rates in WF for the second quarter of 2008 showed an 8.6% increase compared to same period in the previous 12 months.
Life expectancy at birth for males is 74.3 years in WF, compared to 75.8 for the London average, and 76 for England as a whole. Life expectancy at birth for females is 79.5 years in WF, compared to 80.8 for the London average, and 80.7 for England as a whole. So far as health and disability indicators are concerned, it is not disputed that there is a clear correlation between income levels of wellbeing.
Deprivation and indebtedness
So far as overall deprivation is concerned, Index of Multiple Deprivation data suggest that WF is ranked 25th most deprived local authority out of the 354 authorities in England and Wales, and is the 12th most deprived borough in London. We know from London wide data that 20 to 25% of White and Indian households live in relative poverty; this rises to 35% for Black Caribbean households, 50% for Black African Households, and 65% for Bangladeshi households. The WF Credit Union reports a growing interest in new members and borrowers (37% higher than the previous year).
Our clients and what they want help with
Our most recent CAB client survey information suggests that about 87% of our clients describe themselves as other than White British. 12% describe themselves as being Asian or Asian British and another 20% describe themselves as European White. 17% are Black African, and another 15% Black Caribbean. 55% of our clients are women.
We believe that our clients tend to come from those sections of the local community who are the most disadvantaged. Our client profile information supports the conclusion that we inspire considerable confidence in our service, across the various ethnic and racial groups who make up our local population. However, we note that we see fewer clients who self-designate as Pakistani, compared to, say, 10 years ago. It is unclear why this is so. Some data suggests that the relative levels of poverty within that particular community approach the same level as ‘white British’ (for example in the take-up of social security).
Whilst 13% of the population of WF are aged between 16 and 24, only 9% of our clients fall within this age group (previous client profiles have tended to confirm this finding). This may suggest that we are seen as less relevant to young people, as an advice service. Those aged 25 to 60 are heavy users of our service, particularly those aged 25 to 39. Could this be because they are most likely to have needs relating to dependent children (including low income, debt etc?).
Our clients are significantly less likely to have any paid work, compared to Waltham Forest or London averages – 41% of our working age clients are unemployed. This, combined with the high incidence of welfare benefits and debt enquiries (see below) suggests to us that we are reasonably accessible/known about by local residents who are unemployed.
Around 8% of our social security enquiries concern working tax credit, and another 17% concerns housing benefit/council tax benefit (these benefits are also relevant to people in low paid work).
42% of our clients describe themselves as Christian, and another 24% as Muslims. 13% of our clients say they have no religion.
72% of our clients describe themselves as being heterosexual, and 2% describe themselves as being gay. 25% preferred not to describe their sexual orientation in our most recent survey.
Overall, about 35% of all enquiries received concern welfare benefits and another 22% are seeking advice on debt problems. Around 11% of our clients want help with employment problems and 10% have housing advice needs. 8% of our enquiries relate to immigration problems.
What do our trustees do and who are they?
Waltham Forest CAB Service is a limited company and a registered charity. As such, we have trustee board, who collectively act as the employer for all the paid staff, and have the responsibility for making key strategic decisions on behalf of the organisation. The trustee board has the responsibility to oversee the accounts, and ensure that the service complies with all relevant statutory accounting regulations, and other rules that apply to charities.
There are general board meetings every 2 months, indispersed with finance and personnel sub-committees. All meetings are minuted by the company secretary.
The trustee board is made up of local volunteers. These are people who give their time freely to try to ensure that the CAB gives the best service it is able to. A number of trustees are recruited at the annual AGM, and others are co-opted at other times, depending on the needs of the organisation. The numbers of trustees vary, but there are normally 15 to 20 in membership. At any one time. Sometimes trustees have to make difficult decisions concerning both the current needs of the organisation, and other decisions that might have considerable ramifications for the future. The board welcomes applications for membership.