As an MP, my electorate agents and I regularly receive referrals from Hamilton’s Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). Established by the Hamilton City Council in 1972, our CAB offers a free, confidential service on any matter to all members of our community, but especially to those who do not know where else to go for help or have no one to support them.
I am a huge admirer of their work and I know their commitment and wisdom are deeply appreciated by the many people they have assisted. “People come with a variety of issues, ranging from something as simple as filling in a form, to complex problems such as immigration, consumer issues or emergency housing,” says CAB Hamilton Chairperson Jeanette Holborow.
Situated near the Anglican Cathedral at 55 Victoria St, the CAB provides a welcoming, peaceful and confidential environment for people to discuss wide-ranging problems and topics. It is a haven for clients who have no access to the internet or have difficulty processing or comprehending written documents.
The Council is currently considering selling the Victoria Street premises and relocating the CAB but Jeanette believes it is “so important that we are easily accessible for people of all abilities, that we’re not in the middle of the busy CBD, and that we’re near facilities that we liaise with regularly, such as Aged Concern, Community Waikato, the central Police station and Community Law.”
The Hamilton CAB is staffed by a team of volunteers who interact with 45-50 people per day, dealing with everything from family and personal topics through to consumer, legal and government enquiries. In 2017 10,232 clients were assisted, from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities.
“We work closely with other agencies such as Hamilton’s migrant and ethnic communities, local MPs’ offices and other sectors to provide information and advice in a confidential and respectful manner,” explains Jeanette. “We are not only here to help, we are here to listen.”
Free legal clinics are provided twice weekly, and specially-trained Consumer and Advocacy volunteers are available for clients dealing with organisations who feel they need extra support.
“Our aim is to give people information, support and options which enables them to make their own decisions. Our volunteers learn so much also, through researching for our clients and ensuring accurate information is given,” says Jeanette.
“The role adds value to the lives of our volunteers, and provides on-going learning, social connection and mental stimulation – and we always need more volunteers!”
Jeanette says the Language Connect service provided free-of-charge to clients is very popular, enabling clients to speak with someone on the phone in their native language. “It makes it so easy to solve problems when a client is able to speak with someone who understands both their language and culture and there are 20 languages offered.”
Hamilton is one of the few CABs in New Zealand that offers Migrant Connect, which is a free face-to-face service for new migrants giving information about New Zealand rules, education, employment, health, tax and other information that makes re-settlement into a new country easier.
“We are known as being a place where people can find help, and a lot of people just want a listening ear. We are free, we’re not looking at our watch, we’re not charging them and we can take clients through to a private room if needed, whilst we unravel the details of their issue.”
“Our facilities are accessible by foot, bus or car. It’s quiet, peaceful and we have plenty of parking for both our staff and volunteers, and the location is discreet,” says Jeanette. “Much of what is done by the CAB is the quiet, behind-the-scenes work that holds communities together.
CAB Hamilton is open Monday-Friday from 8.45am-5.00pm with two free legal clinics held weekly by appointment only on Mondays at 12.30 pm and Wednesdays at 5.30pm.
Our CAB wouldn’t exist without the hard work and dedication of their volunteers. I thank them all for the time and compassion they dedicate to serving others and encourage anyone who may feel they could contribute to this vital community organisation to drop in or give them a call.