UNDER-THREAT Citizens Advice Solihull has been granted temporary offices by Solihull Council to continue its work in the borough – amid an ongoing campaign.
But the long-standing charity says it faces collapse in less than a year if £100,000 and permanent premises are not found.
The offices will enable Citizens Advice Solihull Borough (CASB) to reshape its services, offering tailored support closer to home.
Solihull Council axed funding to CASB behind closed doors after decades of support, as we exclusively revealed in January.
The new office next to the council’s Central Depot off Moat Lane near Solihull town centre will be available to CASB for one year.
Despite this, CASB has launched an urgent ‘Save Our Service’ appeal for donations and for help in securing a new permanent home – with space for 15 employees – to safeguard its long-term future in the borough.
The £100,000 target would help CASB afford permanent accommodation as well as pay specialist support staff.
Its previous contract – worth more than £200,000 to provide community advice services in the borough – was instead awarded to Age UK Solihull by the council.
The ‘devastating blow’ means it no longer receives any funding from the council and has lost more than two-thirds of its budget.
After 45 years serving the borough, talks between charity bosses and the council to preserve as many services as possible have rumbled on for weeks.
CASB vacated its town centre offices at The Core in Theatre Square on Friday (March 29), after it was served an eviction notice at the council-owned premises in December.
For the final few weeks in its offices, staff had no internet connection and no access to interview rooms which heavily restricted its services.
There has been no telephone service since March 15 and it has been without internet for three weeks, bosses claim.
The full service, it says, will be back at full operation in a fortnight – including a vital internet connection.
But charity chief executive Kerry Turner has announced its telephone and web services, Welfare to Patients service in GP surgeries and a new Help to Claim Universal Credit benefit payment helpline will remain available.
Its main form of support, the drop-in service and face-to-face interview support, will not be available.
As expected, it will also run a heavily reduced service at its Chelmsley Wood office.
Ms Turner said: “Our goal is to find a new permanent premises and to raise enough money to keep those premises open.
“One of my main aims has to be to keep the skills and experience of those volunteers in the long run. You cannot build that kind of experience overnight.
“We hope to expand our services again and look to different avenues to do different things for people.
“Obviously we can’t stay where we are. And while it is a fantastic stop-gap and allows us to continue with our phone and webchat service, we still can’t do face-to-face and have clients here.
“We are changing our advice model, so people phone us and then book an appointment for us to meet them at a venue close to them.”