Citizens Advice West Berkshire’s 2022-23 annual report warns that its clients are running on empty

Citizens Advice West Berkshire (CAWB) published its Annual Report for 2022-23 at its AGM on Wednesday 26 July. The advice charity warns that its services are coming under strain as the ongoing cost of living crisis puts intolerable pressures on households across our community. Its clients are, as the headline to the summary to the report eye-catchingly states, “running on empty.”

“The past year has been extremely challenging for our clients who were faced with rising inflation and soaring food, energy and housing costs,” said Isabel Esperança, Chief Officer of CAWB. “Many clients experienced financial difficulties, job losses, relationship breakdowns, mounting debts and poor mental health. The strain on households was immense, and increasingly, people in full-time work came to us for advice.  We used our clients’ stories to engage with decision-makers to successfully campaign for increased government support on the cost of living, including an uprating of benefits and pensions in line with inflation.”

“Over the past last year” she continued, “Citizens Advice West Berkshire provided crucial support to 1,836 people (10% up from the previous year), tackling a staggering 9,712 issues. We secured over £455,000 in financial outcomes for our clients. I would like to thank all our dedicated staff and volunteers for their commitment to ensuring that our clients had the information and help they required when they needed it.” 

“People are coming to us for help with increasingly complex problems and options to resolve such problems can be limited,” explained Phil Cowhig, CAWB’s Chair of Trustees. “Despite these challenges, we are proud to say that our charity rose to the task. We would like to express our gratitude to all of our volunteers and staff for their unwavering commitment and generosity.

“We are grateful to our primary funders, West Berkshire Council and Greenham Trust, for their continued support. We also wish to thank all our other funders listed in our report, whose support is invaluable. Together, we will continue to make a positive difference in the lives of individuals and families in West Berkshire, ensuring that everyone has access to the support and guidance they need to thrive.”

The good news, as confirmed at the AGM, is that the finances are in good shape. The charity would have spent more had it been able to fill two salaried posts which remain vacant. CAWB has also all but completed a three-year funding agreement with WBC and Greenham Trust. These two organisations currently account for about 60% of the charity’s revenue. Other donors – including the district\s 60-odd town and parish councils – are welcomed.

You can see the full text of the annual report here. This includes reports from the Chair, the Treasurer and the Chief officer; an update on CAWB’s research and campaigns; news on training; summaries of the work done by the Money Advice team and the Carers team; client stories; a summary of CAWB’s impact on the community in 2022-23; and thanks to the charity’s funders, trustees, staff and volunteers.

Iain Cottingham, the incoming WBC representative, asked what the coming year was likely to bring in terms for demand for CAWB’s services. Isabel Esperança said that she felt that the financial pressures would continue and that the Money Advice Service would remain important. She was confident that there was adequate expertise in-house and that this was being supported by ongoing training programmes.

How to get advice

If you live or work in West Berkshire, there are many ways to get help from us:

  • Ring 01635 516 605 and leave a message with your name and number and briefly say what the issue is.
  • For online advice, visit the website  and go to ‘Getting Help’ then ‘Online Advice’.
  • For advice for carers and people with a disability or long-term health conditions, please ring 01635 516609 and leave a message.
  • Self-help online advice is available from the national Citizens Advice website.

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