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Hastings and Rye MP, Amber Rudd, spent a morning visiting the Advice and Community Hub at Renaissance House, London Road.
The Hub provides a one stop shop for advice and representation provided by Citizens Advice 1066, the Hastings Advice and Representation Centre (HARC), and BHT Sussex.
The Hub was opened in April 2012 after the building, which was formerly Hastings Borough Council’s Housing Department, was transferred to BHT Sussex.
BHT Sussex operates other services from the building including Finding Futures, a training and education project funded by the Big Lottery and East Sussex County Council.
Amber Rudd met with service managers. Dina Christodoulou from CA 1066 explained how the one stop shop works and how clients have experienced an improvement in services since the co-location of the three organisations.
Jacky Everard from HARC spoke about the number of appeals that her organisation has taken in response to decisions made by ATOS regarding claimants with disabilities, and that the appeals have been successful in all bar two cases. She said that there are almost 6,000 claimants on ESA and incapacity benefits in the Hastings area.
Jo Wilson from BHT Sussex highlighted trends in the number of people sleeping rough, and that 81 clients have found accommodation in the private rented sector after taking part in a training programme provided by BHT Sussex’s Firm Foundations project.
Andy Winter, Chief Executive of BHT Sussex, spoke about the challenge of digital inclusion and the expectation that 80% of claims for Universal Credit should be made on-line. His organisation’s own research showed that 71% of his clients have affordable access to the Internet but that number falls to just 19% when the organisation’s own provision is excluded, reflecting the Department of Work and Pensions own assessment.
Finally, Ms Rudd met tutors and learners from Finding Futures, several of whom were gaining qualifications for the first time. Client Ambassadors, clients of Finding Futures who help with the induction of new learners and who meet and greet visitors, took Ms Rudd on a tour of the learning facilities provided. Philippa White from Finding Futures reported that of the school-aged learners, all had gained a qualification through Finding Futures.
It was fantastic to see this beautifully renovated building being put to such good use, housing three important charities, CA 1066, HARC and BHT Sussex. It was wonderful to hear about all the good work being done to support residents and a pleasure to meet the three Ambassadors from Finding Futures.
Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings & Rye