Based in Bristol, Ask Us is a partnership between ABLC, 1625 Independent People and Citizens Advice, helping you access local services, understand your rights and work towards independence. Avon Bristol Law Centre (ABLC) is the lead agency for the project.
Ask us is a project for people aged 16 – 25 and experiencing crisis in the following enquiry areas;
-Health & Support Services
Any young person experiencing hardship crisis can access Ask Us either by self-referring via the ABLC website online referral form or key worker can do it on their behalf with their consent.
Ask Us makes sure that young people get the right advice to tackle the problems they face. We can help people to sort out the immediate problems and then work with young people to build coping strategies and a plan so they can avoid crisis situations in the future. For each young person in hardship crisis we work with them not to tell them what to do but to work with them to find the support they need in order to help them achieve their goals and get them to where they want to be.
Funded by Big lottery the project has funding for five years and we’re just about to go into year two with our first review taking place in January 2018.
We will work with young people to reduce poverty, help them manage their money and improve health and wellbeing.
We offer several services which are on offer to the West of England partners: housing advice, disability support and financial advice.
Ask us has a housing law specialist within the team and are also partnered with 1625IP who are commissioned to be the lead partner in a Bristol City council funded co-located prevention and mediation hub for young people. The 1625 staff provide a triage service – assessing for eligibility, urgency of need, possibility of mediation with family/ other excluders and housing options if mediation is not a possibility. They also provide an Assessment, Mediation and Support Service (AMS). AMS workers work to support young people to remain or return within their family network where this is safe. Where mediation is not safe or possible housing options are explored including referrals to the co-located statutory agencies (Social worker and Housing advisors) where there is eligibility. Where there is no eligibility other options including private rented, supported housing and emergency shelters are explored.
Ask Us also offers generalist housing advice exploring the clients current housing status and then advising clients based on the situation.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) Mandatory reconsiderations (MR) and escalation to appeals.
Signposting to charities/organisations with experience in relevant health conditions for help with completing the initial PIP and ESA forms. Supporting young people through the MR process, managing expectations and supporting them through to appeals.
We have within Avon Bristol Law Centre the Legal Advocacy Support Project (LASP) where first tier tribunals are escalated. This is a projected delivered by volunteers from the local law schools managed by welfare benefits expert.
Ask Us adheres to the Citizens Advice Standard Money Advice template.
We support the client to prepare them to navigate their way through the first steps of the money advice process by creating an income and expenditure/Budget, maximising income by looking at what benefits clients might be entitled to by doing a Quick Benefits Check (QBC), looking at their current financial status and at any grants that might be available, including discretionary payments. Ask Us identifies initial debt emergencies and then offers information on challenging debts/checking liability, prioritising debts, dealing with priority and non-priority debts. Once these steps have been completed we can then offer referrals for financial support services within Citizens Advice Bristol or local to client.