Paperweight scoops top community award

The charity has been credited for turning its clients’ lives around


Paperweight Barnet Civic Award Winners 2024. (from left) Paperweight volunteer, Maxine Levi; Operations Director, Nikki Arden and Paperweight volunteer, Julia Hammell

A charity, which has become known as the “Jewish Citizens’ Advice Bureau”, has scooped a prestigious prize for community service.

Paperweight has received the Barnet Civic Award for Outstanding Service to the Community from the Mayor of Barnet, Councillor Nagus Narenthira.

The award recognises individuals or community and voluntary groups based in Barnet, who have made an extra effort to bring the community together or go out of their way to help others.

Founded in 2011 after its CEO Bayla Perrin helped a friend deal with the paperwork following a bereavement, Paperweight gives financial and legal advice and support with form-filling. Forty per cent of its caseload concerns welfare benefits and it is the only Jewish charity with FCA accreditation, said its communications coordinator, Abigail Cox.

She told the JC that they received around 15 calls a day, up from six to eight calls this time last year.

“The increase is down to a greater awareness of the work we do, but it’s also a reflection of what is going on generally – the cost-of-living crisis – and the fallout from the pandemic still has a massive impact. Cases are also more complex now and people often need help with two or three things, such as benefits and also debt.”

Cox added that changes in the benefits’ system can be a challenge. “Not everyone understands them and suddenly their benefits stop.”

Asked about the importance of a specifically Jewish advisory service, Cox said: “As a community, we have our own way of doing things and need people who understand that, especially if the clients are more religious.”

“The mentality of the community can be that we are immune to certain things, but we’re not. However, we might not be able to talk to family about them. But if someone in the community is able to offer support, it might be easier for a client to open up more than they would to someone who isn’t from the community.”

The charity, which won a Barnet Civic Award in 2016, also has offices in Manchester, Gateshead, Leeds and Brighton and works in association with other organisations in Bournemouth.

All of its the services are free apart from Paperlite, which is for people who need ongoing support, when a small monthly fee is charged. This is waived if someone is in receipt of a means-tested benefit.

Cox said: “For some people, because of a neurodiversity, they might have a phobia about opening their mail, so they start getting into debt. They might have dyspraxia and need help getting organised.”

Many of its 200 volunteers are former lawyers, accountants and financial advisors. “A number of them are retired and give as little or as much time as they can.”

CEO, Bayla Perrin said after the ceremony: “We are beyond delighted to be recognised and for the dedication and hard work of our volunteers to be acknowledged by these prestigious awards."

Mayor of Barnet, Cllr Nagus Narenthira, said: “Barnet is fortunate to have so many residents and organisations who are dedicated to serving their community. I would like to thank the award winners and all the other individuals and organisations across the borough who voluntarily give their time supporting others in the community and making Barnet such a great place to live.”

Click here to learn more about Paperweight

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