In confirming that the service has once again been awarded the Advice Quality Standard, inspectors commented that:
‘The care and dedication of the long serving staff and manager enhance the service provided. The professionalism and accountability of staff and managers should be acknowledged as a key strength.’
The only specialist advice provision for older people in the area, Age Concern Kingston’s team offers free, confidential and impartial advice by phone and in person on a huge range of issues, and can visit people at home if necessary.
Service manager Mary Macan said:
‘Many older people and their families don’t realise that they are entitled to financial support which can really make a huge difference to their lives.’
From March 2012 to April 2013 the team helped its clients maximise their incomes by over £570,000, helping them pay their bills, heat their homes and have a better quality of life. Trained volunteers support the service, which consistently receives 100% approval in feedback surveys.
‘The service was excellent,’ wrote one client recently, ‘The volunteer was very helpful and spent a long time with me. She was also very friendly and explained everything clearly. Because of her, I receive the full Attendance Allowance. She knew everything about the subject. Thank you.’
The advisors also support people with disputes, such as appeals against benefit decisions or challenging an inaccurate gas bill. As one client described:
‘It had taken us nearly a year to try and solve this problem. She did it in a few months.’
The Advice Quality Standard (AQS) enables members of the public who are in need of advice on a whole range of issues to receive a quality assured service. It is the only advice-specific, independently audited quality standard in the voluntary sector.
2014 will be the 14th continuous year Age Concern Kingston’s service has held this stamp of approval. To achieve this they must demonstrate that their service is accessible and well-managed, employing people with the skills and up-to-date knowledge necessary to give the best quality advice to clients.
‘It was so reassuring – they have taken much of my worries and stress away, helped me fill the forms and followed up with all the responses.’