House of Commons Event on 07 Dec 2010



CASL - House of Commons Reception on 07th December 2010

Community Advice Service Limited, a start up Company seeded by Branislav Djogo and Clive Nnamdi-Johnson from the demise of CHAS Central London in June 2010, punched above its weight in December last when it persuaded Karen Buck MP, to host an event at the House of Commons which it sponsored.

In total some 45 important figures from the world of social housing including local authorities and housing associations descended on Committee Room 15 to hear Karen Buck welcome them, followed by addresses from Alastair Murray, Deputy Director of Housing Justice and Robina Raffety MBE, the erstwhile head of Housing Justice, now retired but still vociferously against homelessness and supporting CASL in its endeavours to fill the gap in housing, debt and welfare benefits advice.

The theme was to air the present difficulties confronting the social housing arena, in particular the anticipated growing need for advice provision arising from the recession and the comprehensive spending review.

Branislav introduced himself and members of the CASL team including Stuart Freeman, Principal Consultant of CASL, who also addressed the gathering on
The role that advice providers can play in supporting both the tenant and the housing provider'. Branislav engagingly recounted his own experiences as an immigrant from Sarajevo. Confronted by confusing regulations, some help, had it been available, would have been very welcome. The confusing arena in which people struggling with debt and other problems find themselves, is a direct parallel.

Clive talked the gathering through case studies in which CASL had already been effective in alleviating debt problems, realising reductions in mortgage and rent arrears.

After the formal proceedings there was a lively and wide ranging debate which succeeded in highlighting the multi-facetted problems faced by social landlords, their tenants and co-owners. In particular, the rigidity of the current framework of housing provision was thrown into relief when the vexed questions of downsizing and mobility were aired.

The proceedings continued well into the evening when everyone adjourned to the St Stephens Tavern for refreshment laid on by CASL. CASL is building on its initiative by holding a follow up briefing forum at its office in Finsbury Square on 3rd March 2011. Further sessions are planned in order to appeal to a wider audience than was evident at the House of Commons event.

CASL, from a standing start in June last year now acts for many local authorities and housing associations including Notting Hill Home Ownership, Metropolitan, Peabody, Southern Housing Group, One Housing Group, Barnet Homes, Hounslow Homes, Arhag HA, Redbridge Homes, Nacro and others. CASL has set its sights on being pre-eminent in the field of housing, debt and welfare benefits advice given the very urgent need for a very targeted service against relative weakness of current providers offering a more generalised approach. It is vital that the specific needs of a diverse community facing a variety of interconnected problems are met. In particular, CASL prides itself on the advocacy service it offers to clients, representing them in Court when the going gets tough. As Branislav says, "We don't walk away when the need is greatest. Our comprehensive frontline advice is free of charge for our clients referred by their social landlords.

Whilst there is uncertainty about the form and scale of advice provision likely to be available in the future, there is no doubt that I would want CASL on my side when the chips are down! They provide dedicated, fulsome and very personal support with great sensitivity and deliver an effective result.

John English