Published: 14/04/2005, Volume II5, No. 5951 Page 38

One of the cornerstones of many a voluntary institution is that they will go where others would rather not.

The Citizens Advice Bureau is one such organisation. It has a centre at West London Mental Health trust's Broadmoor Hospital, the only one of the three special hospitals to have such a service.

CAB worker Jo Kelly, who is based at the hospital two days a week, says she was undeterred by the hospital's grim appearance, or the prospect of working with dangerous people.

A former civil servant, she was previously a volunteer at a high street Citizens Advice office but started at Broadmoor almost seven years ago because she wanted a part-time position.

'I had never been before and did not know what to expect. On a lovely sunny day it is not forbidding at all.' As a CAB worker, Jo offers patients a link to life outside Broadmoor. Much of her work involves helping patients carry out tasks that would be quite straightforward for people on the outside: sorting out problems with mail order, updating agencies to make sure on-release patients do not lose eligibility for benefits and setting up bank accounts.

She says it can be difficult to convince banks that her clients do not have any utility bills or other documents needed to open an account. 'One bank manager said it would be okay if the client could come in person. I had to explain how that would take an order from the home secretary and a police escort, ' says Jo.

She says that patients appreciate the chance to talk to someone who is not a member of hospital staff. Though her office is based outside the main hospital building, she sees most of her clients on their wards and does not need an escort to travel around the hospital.

'That was established when I started.

If I had to wait for an escort everything would take much longer, ' she says.

www. adviceguide. org. uk