An inspirational man from Banbury, Oxfordshire, received a prestigious British Citizen Award for Services to Volunteering & Charitable Giving, at the Palace of Westminster on 24th January 2019.
Andrew Willis has been helping the disabled, poor, elderly and unemployed for 12 years as a volunteer ad-visor. He set up Banburyshire Advice Centre, a charity which he created to offer people in poverty the type of help not available elsewhere. Andrew, a graduate and former teacher, has raised over £60,000 through a mixture of grant applications for the charity and through selling his own art cards made of coloured wax. Andrew is particularly proud that in one year alone the net gain for its clients was over £51,000 achieved through benefit advice. The charity also benefits its clients through supplying essential items such as food vouchers, securing grants and successfully negotiating repayment terms with landlords to prevent homelessness.
The Banburyshire Advice Centre differs from Citizen Advice Bureau in that it does not operate a Triage (or Signposting) service, which for many sufferers of anxiety sitting in crowded waiting rooms can be a real challenge. On arrival all clients see an adviser and consultations can last up to three hours, with advisers offering help in completing forms and working hard to achieve the best possible outcome for clients.
It also works holistically with clients to not only deal with the initial issue but to understand the under-lying causes of their concerns, this way Andrew and his team of volunteers are able to genuinely bring a stop to the often-downward spiral of poverty. The centre also offers educational course ad-vice and career counselling which gives service users the opportunity to change the course of their lives.
Whilst the centre is not designed to offer debt counselling, it is geared towards helping people avoid debt. It achieves this through helping people with claims to benefits that they are rightly entitled, whether it is Incapacity Benefit, Employment & Support Allowance or Universal Credit. Often it is the most desperate people that turn to the Advice Centre as a last resort, and yet Andrew feels privileged to volunteer in such a rewarding area where the smile of a relieved client at the end of a consultation is a true success. He also campaigns for Leonard Cheshire, Alzheimer’s Society, MIND and Independent Age.
The British Citizen Award recognises individuals that positively impact others and highlights the positive aspects of multi-cultural communities, workplaces, community groups and charities throughout the UK. It is accessible to all and serves to celebrate the good things that make Britain great.
Andrew was presented his Medal by Pat Egan, Group Executive Director Affordable Housing at Places for People who are the founding Sponsors. Pat stated “it was an honour to present Andrew with an Award. His commitment towards providing people with financial help and advice has undoubtedly had considerable impact for many people in the community”.
The British Citizen Awards (BCAs) were launched in 2015, to recognise exceptional individuals who work tirelessly and selflessly to make a positive impact on society. BCAs are awarded twice annually, and recognise extraordinary people whose achievements may otherwise be overlooked.
Andrew Willis is one of 30 medalists who were honoured at a prestigious ceremony on 24th January 2019, at the Palace of Westminster. All BCA recipients have selflessly undertaken various activities in support of a number of worthy causes. Each will receive a Medal of Honour, inscribed with the words ‘For the Good of the Country’. Medalists are also invited to use the initials BCA after their name.
The event was hosted by TV star Michael Underwood, who stated “Having presented the very first British Citizen Awards, it’s a real honour to be invited back and a privilege. I am in awe learning more about the incredible people being recognised for their contribution to society”.
The medals are presented by Senior Representatives from Specsavers, Unilever, Places for People, Unity Trust Bank, Experian and The Co-operative Bank, who all sponsor these awards widely referred to as ‘the People’s Honour’s.