News

This is where we’ll post third sector news and important updates that are useful for your organisation.

Helen Stephenson: Charity auditors’ compliance with new rules ‘not good enough’

Originally published by charitytimes: www.charitytimes.com


Written by Lauren Weymouth
02/07/18

Charity auditors’ initial responses to new reporting rules have been ‘disappointing’ and have raised ‘serious concerns’, Charity Commission CEO Helen Stephenson has said.

Speaking at the ICAEW Charity Conference last week, Stephenson said the updated guidance for auditors, published by the Commission following the collapse of Kids Co, which encourage charity auditors’ to flag matters of material significance in their audit reports, have been “just not good enough”.

Following the collapse of Kids Company, the Charity Commission updated its guidance to auditors, extending the list of reportable matters and encouraging charity auditors to alert the Commission to matters of material significance to prevent instances like this reoccurring.

However, Stephenson said: “We were disappointed when we tested compliance with the new rules. We found fewer than one in four auditors alerted us to matters of material significance identified in their audit reports.

“Of 114 auditors who gave us audit opinions, containing information they were required to report to us in the six months to October 2017, only 28 did so. To be frank, this is just not good enough.

“In fact, it’s a serious concern to us and we’ve been working in partnership with the ICAEW and others to raise awareness of this new compliance,” she added.

The Charity Commission CEO, who has been in post for a year, explained that rebuilding public trust “does not begin and end with explaining ourselves to the public, as important as that is”.

She explained it also requires charities to adhere to “high standards of conduct and behaviour in the first place”, which means being “true to the purpose and mission, ethos and values” of each charity.

“Finance professionals play a crucial role in that respect, both in their role of driving strategies within charities, ensuring a tight focus on mission and rigorous management as auditors and examiners of charities.”

Author: Steering Member
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Categories: News

Volunteering for a healthy mind and body

Originally published by charitytimes: www.charitytimes.com


Written by Dr Nicola Davies
June/July 2017

Psychology and health research are increasingly showing the positive impact of volunteering on the well-being of volunteers. Indeed, evidence suggests the benefits of volunteering are vast and can touch all areas of our life – from the sense of purpose that comes with being involved in a meaningful activity, improved cognitive function, and increased social interaction.1 Benefits can even be attributed to volunteering in an outdoor setting specifically.

Contact with nature

Much research is being conducted into the effects of environmental volunteering. Benefits such as increased time in natural surroundings and more physical exercise are unique to those volunteering outside, and these in turn can have a positive impact on the mental health of volunteers.

Research indicates that contact with nature in outdoor volunteering has positive benefits for both mental and physical health. This has been attributed to increased physical activity and reduced stress levels.2 Furthermore, it has been found that hands-on interaction with nature through volunteering can help individuals suffering from mental illness to reintegrate into society.3

A study into the mood effects of exercise found that those who exercised in an outdoor setting experienced greater improvements in mood, attributed by participants to the restorative and calming effect of greenspace.4

Sense of purpose

Meaningful occupation and contribution to society are both necessary for a person’s well-being. The research shows that many volunteers attribute a sense of achievement and meaning to the work they undertake. Indeed, studies have repeatedly shown that volunteers, no matter their age, gain a sense of purpose and improved quality of life through their volunteering activities.2,3 Volunteering has also been associated with increased confidence and sense of achievement.5

In a study on individuals with mild or moderate dementia, Dr Daniel George of Penn State University in the US found that volunteers reported a renewed sense of purpose and improved quality of life in comparison with those who didn’t undertake volunteering.9

Creative freedom

It has been argued that volunteering can only be considered leisure if the sense of obligation is balanced with creative freedom, which is an intrinsic component of well-being.5,6 Volunteering has also been shown to have a significant positive impact on an individual’s satisfaction with both the amount and use of their leisure time, and many volunteers, especially young people, consider volunteering a time to have fun and make new friends.2,5,7

While volunteering in nature has been strongly correlated with reduced stress levels due to the restorative nature of the environment, Dr George’s research shows outdoor volunteering is not alone in its stress-relieving properties. He shares that the most important finding from his own research with dementia patients volunteering in schools was the significant decrease in stress levels of those who undertook regular volunteering compared to those who did not.

Improved cognitive function

Dr Yannick Griep, assistant professor at University of Calgary in Canada, and his colleagues looked at the role of volunteering in reducing the likelihood of a dementia diagnosis. “Previous studies found evidence for the protective role of physical activity, cognitive activity, or social interactions in lowering the likelihood of being diagnosed with dementia,” Dr Griep says. “We decided to focus on volunteering because voluntary work is a prototypical activity that combines physical and cognitive activity and social interactions in such a way that it resembles a paid job.”

Dr Griep and his colleagues found that those who volunteered regularly reported improved cognitive function and decreased use of anti-dementia medication. They were also more active both physically and cognitively. “Our results clearly indicate that constant volunteering, for at least one hour per week every week, significantly reduces the likelihood of being diagnosed with dementia 2 years and 4 years after being retired,” he says. Participants also reported significantly fewer problems remembering things, fewer problems concentrating, less difficulty making decisions, and less difficulty thinking clearly. “Based on our results,” says Dr Griep, “we would advise everybody who retires to volunteer at least one hour per week and to keep up this voluntary work on a steady basis, every week ideally. By engaging in voluntary work, older people are able to access what is called the ‘latent benefits of work’ (social interaction, daily time structure, social status, meaningful contributions to society) that would otherwise be lost when you retire from a paid job.”

It isn’t just older people who notice cognitive and physical improvements due to volunteering. Students have also reported that volunteering improves their physical health, skillset, and career opportunities.2,5,8 According to Dr Griep, research demonstrates the neurological underpinnings of being physically, cognitively, and socially active – and volunteering is one way to achieve all three of these regardless of age.

“Engaging in activities that require cognitive capacities has been found to increase the use of cognitive skills and functional reorganisation, and induced neurogenesis [the birth of new neurons in the brain], synaptogenesis [the formation of synapses between neurons], and cortical plasticity. It, thus, seems that there is a neurological underlying explanation for the findings we reported in our study,” explains Dr Griep.

Social connection

There is a significant body of research into the positive effects of volunteering on social connection. Volunteering is fundamentally a social activity. Not only do volunteers form relationships with each other and the volunteering organisation, but they also interact with other members of the community. It is important to note, however, that these relationships are not always positive, with exclusion and frustration often being experienced alongside improved social skills, community relationships, and social cohesion.3,6,11

Overall, however, evidence suggests a positive link between volunteering and social well-being. One large study found that 51 per cent of young volunteers began to socialise with people from different backgrounds due to volunteering.3 Another study showed that social interaction and integration into campus society was the most important benefit for student volunteers.5

Altruistic contribution

Volunteering balances community contribution and personal attainment in a form of ‘reciprocal altruism.’ Volunteers provide assistance and support to members of the community and the organisations or charities they work for, while the volunteers themselves receive positive benefits for their personal health and well-being.

Research has found the values of altruism and humanitarianism to be important motivations for voluntary work, alongside gaining a practical understanding of skills and improving career prospects.5,8 Volunteering is not only a group accomplishment, but also reflects personal effort, so altruism is realised by both the individual and the community. Dr George advocates ‘intergenerational volunteering,’ which can be seen as a form of reciprocal altruism. In his own research, retired people entered schools to help children, with participants not only experiencing positive improvements to their own well-being, but also providing much-needed assistance to children. According to Dr George, “Volunteering in a school is generative – it creates value and adds to our community fabric. I think it would be interesting to examine the benefits of intergenerational interactions on children over time since there is reciprocity in that relationship.”

Holistic benefits

A wealth of research suggests that volunteering is no longer an activity that needs to be seen as entirely altruistic. By giving our time and energy to others, we can benefit too – psychologically, cognitively, socially, and physically. Volunteering is good for everyone involved, regardless of age. The question is how charities can communicate these benefits and help people help them and help themselves.

Dr Nicola Davies is a freelance journalist

1. Molsher, R. & Townsend, M. (2016). Improving wellbeing and environmental stewardship through volunteering in nature. EcoHealth, (13): 151.
2. O’Brien, L., Townsend, M. & Ebden, M. (2010). Doing something positive: Volunteers’ experiences of the well-being benefits derived from practical conservation activities in nature. Voluntas, (21): 525-545.
3. O’Brien, L., Burls, A., Townsend, M. & Ebden, M. (2011). Volunteering in nature as a way of enabling people to reintegrate into society. Perspectives in Public Health, March 131(2): 71-81. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com.ezproxy.library.uq.edu.au/doi/pdf/10.1177/1757913910384048
4. Peacock, J., Hine, R. & Pretty, J. (2007). Got the blues, then find some greenspace: The mental health benefits of green exercise activities and green care. MIND Week Report, Centre for Environment and Society, University of Essex, February, 2007.
5. Qian, X.L. & Yarnal, C. (2010). Benefits of volunteering as campus tour guides: The rewards of serious leisure revisited. Leisure/Loisir, 34(2): 127-144.
6. Gallant, K., Arai, S. & Smale, B. (2013). Serious leisure as an avenue for nurturing community. Leisure Sciences, 35(4): 320-336.
7. Binder, M. (2015). Volunteering and life satisfaction: A closer look at the hypothesis that volunteering more strongly benefits the unhappy. Applied Economics Letters, 22(11): 874-885.
8. Fletcher, T.D. & Major, D.A. (2004). Medical students’ motivations to volunteer: An examination of the nature of gender differences. Sex Roles, (51): 109.
9. George, D.R. (2011). Intergenerational volunteering and quality of life: Mixed methods evaluation of a randomized control trial involving persons with mild to moderate dementia. Qual Life Res 20: 987.
10. Griep, Y., Hanson, L.M., Vantilborgh, T., Janssens, L., Jones. S.K. & Hyde M. (2017). Can volunteering in later life reduce the risk of dementia? A 5-year longitudinal study among volunteering and non-volunteering retired seniors. PLoS ONE 12(3): e0173885.
11. Smith, M., Timbrell, H., Woolvin, M., Muirhead, S. & Fyfe, N. (2010). Enlivened geographies of volunteering: Situated, embodied and emotional practices of voluntary action. Scottish Geographical Journal, 126(4): 258–274.

Author: Steering Member
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Categories: News

Government recommends upping society lotteries’ annual limit to £100m in new consultation

Originally posted by UK Fundraising: www.fundraising.co.uk


The Government is recommending raising the maximum amount society lotteries can raise for good causes from £10 million to £100 million per year.

consultation into society lotteries opened on 29 June into on changes to the amount of money they can raise for good causes.

The Government recommends increasing the maximum draw prize from its current limit of £400,000 to £500,000. The consultation also asks for views on recommendations to increase the number of tickets society lotteries can sell to a value of £100 million per year and the amount they can raise per draw to £5 million.

Society lotteries raised over £255 million for good causes in 2016/17 but the individual draw limit for large society lotteries was last raised in 2009. The Gambling Act sets the current limits for society lotteries as £4 million sales per draw, £10 million sales per year and a maximum draw prize of £400,000.

The consultation follows the sector’s calls for limits to be increased. It will run for ten weeks and is open to members of the public.

Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sport and Civil Society said:

“Society lotteries make a vital difference to communities up and down the country. They raise hundreds of millions of pounds every year, supporting our veterans, lifeboats, hospices, air ambulances and many other great causes. They are an important fundraising tool for charities and we want to ensure that both society lotteries and the National Lottery are able to thrive now and in the future.”

The Institute of Fundraising, Lotteries Council and Hospice Lottery Association wrote to Crouch in March this year, calling for the consultation to be brought forward following House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee recommendation in 2015.

In response to the news of the consultation, Daniel Fluskey, IoF Head of Policy and External Affairs, said:

“We are pleased that DCMS have published this consultation to review society lotteries. We know that the current system restricts how much charities can raise through the limits set and welcome this opportunity to review how the system can work better so we can raise more money for good causes and beneficiaries. We look forward to discussing the proposals with our members and engaging with DCMS through this process.”

Essex & Herts Air Ambulance (EHAAT) also welcomed the announcement.

Nicole Wastell, Lottery Manager at EHAAT said:

“Essex & Herts Air Ambulance will soon reach the £10 million annual sales turnover limit set by the current lottery regulations. Unless the regulations are changed, we will be forced to take out a new licence and restructure our existing lottery, at an estimated total cost of £100,000.

“As a charity which receives no central Government funding we believe our supporters across Essex & Hertfordshire would prefer us to spend this money delivering our life-saving service.

“Each year our Critical Care Teams are called to over 1,000 life-threatening incidents, at a total cost of £6.5 million. £100,000 could pay for us to attend an extra 40 missions or equip 65 premises, such as our charity shops, with defibrillators.”

Author: Steering Member
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Categories: News

80% of charities need to revisit digital strategy

Originally published by charitytimes: www.charitytimes.com


Written by Charity Times staff writer
25/05/18

Eight in 10 charity leaders acknowledge they need to advance the pace of digital change within their organisation, new research has revealed.

According to Engineers for change: Why finance teams must drive the digital agenda, published today by Charity Finance Group and Eduserv, 60 per cent of charities are successfully implementing a digital strategy, but over 80 percent said they would benefit from rethinking the approach they have to a digital transformation.

The research further highlighted that charities could increase the effectiveness of their plans by involving finance professionals earlier in strategy development and more closely in their delivery.

Only a minority of finance professionals are currently (43%) involved in digital planning or delivery in their organisations, but 86 per cent acknowledge they need to advance scope and pace of digital change.

Investment in technology (60%), collaboration across teams (58%) and investment in skills (52%) were found to be the top three factors charities think are critical to successful digital change.

CFG chief executive, Caron Bradshaw said it is becoming increasingly noticeable that finance professionals are “leading on digital and IT because nearly every change a charity faces will have an impact on their risk profile, the business model and sustainability”.

“Despite the many competing pressures facing every charity today, it is good to see clear evidence that organisations across the sector are committed to digital transformation,” she said.

“One key message came through our conversations with members: digital transformation is less about the technical demands and more about the leadership skills of the people we employ.”

Eduserv chief executive, Jude Sheeran, added: “It is no longer the case that digital technology serves merely to make our organisations more efficient.

“Across all sectors, digital technology is converging with operations and in doing so, fundamentally changing the way we do business.

It is particularly exciting to see that charities are beginning to understand and exploit the opportunities.”

You can download the full report here.

Author: Steering Member
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Categories: News

GDPR: how charities can prepare with one week to go

Originally published by charitytimes: www.charitytimes.com


Written by David Britton
18/05/18

When Ecclesiastical surveyed charities about GDPR at the end of last year, more than a third of small charities had not heard of the legislation. Fast forward five months and with the deadline looming, the good news is that the picture is now a very different one. In my conversations with charities over the past few months, awareness of the legislation has been steadily growing, and it’s now the hottest topic of discussion when I talk to clients.

There’s no doubting that the amount of time and effort that’s been put into planning and preparing for the GDPR has been significant. But while everyone is now aware of the legislation, there are still a lot of charities working hard to understand the implications for their own organisation.

A lot of focus for charities has been in reviewing the key questions for fundraising, in particular around the debate on whether or not they need to gather fresh consent from donors and supporters. Recent guidance from the Institute of Fundraising and, the Information Commissioners’ Office (ICO) has helped address some of these issues, but the implications of the GDPR are wider than just consent versus legitimate interest.

One area charities will need to think about is how prepared they are to manage the knock-on effects of data breaches. The GDPR imposes a new duty on charities to report certain types of data breach to the ICO within 72 hours of becoming aware. Above this if the breach is likely to result in a high risk in individuals, then they must also be notified.

This brings in a need for charities to review their processes to detect breaches, and then respond if something happens. The risks posed by cyber threats means that the likelihood of breaches is increasing and charities need to be prepared to manage the risks and deal with the consequences.

In light of this, charities are still in need of more support in terms of managing the risks posed by cyber threats such as hacking and phishing. There’s an increasing trend of charities data being targeted by cyber criminals so we’ve been working to help charities improve their cyber security, including publishing a recent guide in conjunction with the Cyber Security Forum.

It’s important that charities understand the risks to their organisation. The costs of not complying with the new data regulation are significant – new sanctions available to the regulator under the GDPR, include the power to issue greater fines for serious breaches, up to 4% of turnover or €20m. However these significant fines and penalties will only be used in the most serious of breaches.

So what can charities do now to prepare in the run-up to the introduction of the GDPR? If they haven’t already, then make sure trustees have discussed the GDPR and looked at what work needs to be done to ensure they are ready. It will depend on the circumstances of different organisations but a good place to start is to review all the personal data they hold, in all areas from donor and supporter information to staff and volunteer details and beneficiary data.

There’s guidance on the ICO website about the 12 key steps to take now so review all the existing guidance available. Charities should also see if there are similar organisations out there to talk to. One of the great strengths of the charity sector is its focus on collaboration so this is also a great opportunity to speak to similar organisations and learn from each other.

At this late stage, the key thing is not to worry unnecessarily about the GDPR. Many charities will already be well on the way to complying with the GDPR, particularly through any steps they’ve already taken to ensure they comply with the current data protection act. The GDPR will need focus from charities to ensure they are compliant but it’s not designed to be an excessive burden.

It provides charities with an opportunity to review the ways they engage with donors, supporters and beneficiaries to make sure they are fundraising effectively and taking any opportunities to show people how charities can do great things with personal data to help meet the needs of those who charities support.

David Britton is charity director at Ecclesiastical.

Author: Steering Member
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Categories: News

Ex-charity boss John Briers guilty of £700,000 fraud

Originally posted by The BBC: www.bbc.co.uk


A former charity chief has been found guilty of defrauding his organisation out of more than £700,000.

John Briers, who was the head of Age Concern South Tyneside, used fake invoices and banked unauthorised bonus and pension payments between 2007 and 2015.

Briers, 57, of Woodstock Road, Gateshead, had denied three counts of fraud by abuse of position.

He will be sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court on 24 May.

Briers stole a total of £708,499, the jury heard.

He paid 60 fraudulent cheques amounting to £433,236 into his bank account as well as awarding himself £105,560 via 12 unauthorised bonuses and £169,703 through 19 unauthorised top-ups to his pension.

‘Deeply saddened’

The jury heard concerns were raised by a finance officer in August 2015 who had become worried about an invoice claiming to be from an architecture firm.

They were also told number of submitted invoices were not sequentially numbered and had no supporting documentation.

Briers claimed he had banked the cheques as reimbursement for paying suppliers from his own funds and said the original invoices had all been lost and replaced by substitutes.

Following the verdict, the charity said: “We are deeply saddened by this serious breach of trust and highly conscious of how much more might have been done by the local charity to help older people in the South Tyneside area if it had not happened.”

Author: Steering Member
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Categories: News

You can now donate to charity by asking Amazon’s Alexa to send money

Originally posted on The Verve: www.theverge.com


You can now donate to charity with your voice by asking Amazon’s Alexa.

Today, the tech giant announced a new feature called Alexa Donations, powered by Amazon Pay. Now, you can just say, “Alexa, donate $10 to UNICEF USA,” or any supported charity of your choice. Alternatively, you can say, “Alexa, make a donation,” and Alexa will ask you to pick a charity and dollar amount. Then, it uses your Amazon account payment info to complete the transaction.

Currently, users can only choose from 48 charities and nonprofits, including more commonly known ones like the American Red Cross and the American Cancer Society to internet-oriented groups like the Tor Project, Wikimedia Foundation, and the media site ProPublica. Amazon noted in a press release, “This is just the beginning — this list will continue to grow.”

According to the company, over a million people have used Amazon Pay to donate to charities already before Alexa Donations was launched. Amazon has also collaborated before with Give Back Box, which let users reuse Amazon boxes to ship donations to charities.

Author: Steering Member
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Categories: News

Essex Savers net Credit Union Limited goes out of business: FSCS to protect 5,000 members

Content from FSCS


The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) has stepped in to protect members of Essex Savers net Credit Union Limited; which has stopped trading and is now in default. This means it cannot re-pay deposits to its 5000 members.

FSCS will compensate the vast majority of members within seven days. Using the credit union’s records, FSCS will send payments out automatically.

Members with up to £1,000 in their account will receive a letter to get cash over the counter at their local Post Office. Anyone with more than this will receive a cheque for their balance direct from FSCS.

For holders of a Child Trust Fund account with Essex Savers net Credit Union Limited, the process for FSCS to reimburse savings is different to that for other account holders. Payment can only be made to an alternative Junior ISA provider. The administrators (CVR Global LLP) will shortly be writing to the registered holders of Child Trust Fund accounts with Essex Savers net Credit Union with further information about this.

FSCS protects up to £85,000 of savings per person – double that for joint accounts. It has come to the aid of more than 4.5m people since 2001, while paying out over £26bn in compensation. FSCS expects the total pay-out for Essex Savers net Credit Union members to be £1.7m.

Mark Oakes, Head of Communications at FSCS, said:

“We are here to protect members of Essex Savers net Credit Union Limited, and we’re ready to help. Your savings are protected up to £85,000, and joint accounts are covered for £170,000. You should get your money back within the week. The process is automatic too, so you won’t have to apply for compensation.”

Read more information on how FSCS helps people with current or savings accounts in banks, building societies and credit unions.

Any queries about Essex Savers net Credit Union Limited can be directed to the administrators, Kevin Murphy, Jason Maloney and Bai Cham of CVR Global LLP by post; c/o 7B Castlegate, York, YO1 9RN; telephone 01245 830520  or email at [email protected]

Notes

  • For more information on deposits protection please visit our questions and answers page.
  • Essex Savers net Credit Union Limited was declared in default on 14 February 2018 with 5,000 members.
  • FSCS is the UK’s statutory compensation scheme for customers of authorised financial services firms. FSCS is funded by the financial services industry and protects investment business, deposits, home finance (mortgage) advice, and general insurance and insurance broking. FSCS can pay for financial loss if a firm cannot pay claims against it. We are independent and do not charge individual customers for using our service.
  • Before FSCS can declare a credit union in default and pay compensation to its members, it must be satisfied the credit union cannot repay deposits because of its financial circumstances, and has no current prospect of being able to do so.

 

Author: Sarah Huggett
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Categories: News

The GDPR

As we are all aware the GDPR General Data Protection Regulation will be taking effect on 25 May 2018. The Alliance provides a platform for all community sector organisations to get involved in the conversation, share knowledge and experiences.

The 12 step plan is a good guide to work through so that we can be prepared for the upcoming changes. You can download the full 12 step plan here.

An event that has been highlighted by Maldon CVS may be of interest to you, for all details please click here.

Essex CVS and Volunteer Essex have partnered with Russell Cooke Solicitors to offer voluntary and community organisations in Essex the opportunity to attend a legal briefing on the forthcoming changes to the law surrounding Data Protection.

The General Data Protection Regulation will come into force in May 2018 and organisations are advised to update their existing policies and procedures to ensure they remain compliant. The forthcoming changes will affect all organisations that collect or use individuals’ personal information.

Russell-Cooke is recognised as one of the leading law firms advising charities in the UK and one of their Associate Solicitors Carla Whalen will be providing a half day seminar covering the changes and their impact for not for profit organisations, the legal bases for processing data, privacy notices and the rights of individuals.

The seminar will take place at Anglia Ruskin University on the 16th January 2018, 1pm. Places are £45 per person including light refreshments. Book online at https://gdpr-update.eventbrite.co.uk

Author: Sarah Huggett
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Categories: News

Citizens Advice Essex is a member and supporter of the Essex Alliance since its conception

Citizens Advice Essex is a member and supporter of The Alliance since its conception.

We aim to:

  • provide the advice people need for the problems they face.

The Citizens Advice Essex service offers information, advice and guidance through face-to- face, phone and digital services, with information available online via www.essexcab.org.uk or our national public website www.citizensadvice.org.uk

  • improve the policies and practices that affect people’s lives.

We’re not just here for times of crisis – we also use clients’ stories anonymously to campaign for policy changes that benefit the population as a whole. For example, we are currently campaigning for a ‘pause’ to the roll out of Universal Credit full service because of the poor experience and support experienced by claimants. Read more…

Author: Sarah Huggett
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Categories: News