42 years ago a group of Cheetham Hill residents came together to give advice to their neighbours and to campaign around rehousing issues. Initially staffed entirely by volunteers in an office above a pub, this small service very quickly became part of the welcoming committee for the area. The group moved into more permanent offices in the basement of the local library to help newly arrived communities and people in the area facing hardship. In the last year the charity’s team helped increase local people’s income by £1.7 million as well as helping people reduce debt and improve their housing.
The group registered as a charity in 1978 and has had volunteer involvement and leadership as central component ever since. The current board of trustees has over 68 years’ experience as board members on this charity and on any given week there are around 33 years of experience within the frontline volunteer team. Former volunteers have gone on to become paid staff and even long serving trustees. There are more than three times as many volunteers as staff at Cheetham Hill Advice Centre and it this commitment and dedication that has allowed the charity to serve the people of the community for the last 42 years.
CHAC’s oldest volunteer is 63 and he is a volunteer advisor who speaks English and Yoruba. The volunteer who speaks most languages is a 26 year old woman who speaks English, Urdu, Kashmiri, Punjabi and Spanish. The current longest serving frontline volunteers have been volunteering for 8 years and the longest serving Trustee has been on the Board for 28 years.
Anyone from the city can come to the centre for advice where they can be welcomed by a volunteer in over 20 languages. The service provides advice in everything from how to pay your council tax bill, to reducing debt, to representation at court for cases of welfare benefits and tax credits. This service is designed for some of the most deprived in our communities and has helped people with over 17,000 problems in the last six years.
The Cheetham Hill area of North Manchester has been home to newly arrived communities for centuries. Generation after generation of people have come to Cheetham Hill and built themselves a life and built the community that exists today. For the past 42 years this community has benefited from the services provided at Cheetham Hill Advice Centre as well as contributing to the large volunteer team who make this work possible.
CHAC had an independent evaluation carried out in the summer of 2019 which found that the charity was delivering a range of important outcomes including:
Increasing people’s financial stability, improving people’s wellbeing and having an impact on the wider strategic arena. You can read the final evaluation report here.