About Us

CHAI (Community Help & Advice initiative) supports and empowers people and communities across Edinburgh through free, confidential, high-quality, impartial advice, information and representation on welfare benefits, money, housing and employability.

Advice – Information – Support

Do you need a benefit check?

Or help to appeal a benefit decision?

Are you facing eviction?

Are you struggling with debts?

Do you need support to find a job?

We can help you!

Who we are

CHAI (Community Help and Advice Initiative) is a registered Scottish charity (SC027594) which aims to support to people in Edinburgh. Our services are free, confidential, impartial and independent. Advice is available in our office and at various locations, by telephone or via home visits.

Click on the arrows to read our vision, mission, objectives and values.

CHAI works to ensure no one in our communities has to endure hardship.

CHAI will provide free, independent, and impartial information, and high-quality advice on welfare rights, employability, debt, and housing matters to our Communities, focusing on homelessness prevention and supporting people out of poverty.

  • To provide best practice information, advice and support to the community in relation to maximising income, your welfare rights, debt and housing matters, employability and sustaining tenancy.
  • To relieve poverty in the community areas served by CHAI.
  • To provide practical help to sections of the community in need, particularly people with disabilities, and young people and families, whilst fostering an overall spirit of community care and assistance.
  • To aid in the interests of social welfare, with the specific objective of improving conditions of life of residents in the community.
  • To inform people of their rights and teach life skills to empower them.

Compassion: We demonstrate compassion by treating our clients, colleagues, and partners with empathy, and by always respecting their dignity.

 

Integrity: We uphold the values of fairness, authenticity, honesty, reliability, and impartiality/non-judgment in the way we work with clients, colleagues, and partners

 

Quality: We are committed to maintaining high standards of work, consistently striving for excellence. Collaboration and partnership are central to how we achieve quality outcomes.

 

Learning: Innovation and continuous improvement are integral to our approach. We embrace adaptability and foster a culture of learning to better serve our clients.

 

Empowerment: We foster independence and empower both staff and clients with the necessary tools and/or life skills so they can help themselves and achieve change.

Who we are

The Community Help and Advice Initiative (CHAI) is a voluntary organisation with charitable status, established as a company limited by guarantee.  It was formed in October 1997 from a planned amalgamation of a number of smaller organisations that had previously been operating in similar fields of work in the Wester Hailes Community. CHAI was conceived as a Social Welfare Agency for Wester Hailes.

Initially the Project was funded through the Government’s Urban Aid programme, and successor funding initiatives, as part of the wider regeneration initiative in the Community of Wester Hailes in Edinburgh – an area recognised as suffering from multiple deprivation. 

In more recent years, CHAI has developed its remit to provide additional services under specific contracts with the City of Edinburgh Council, Registered Social Landlords, NHS Lothian and the Scottish Legal Aid Board

Board and Management

CHAI is governed by an elected Board of Directors, with each member offering an area of expertise that is conducive to the work we do at CHAI.

 We are also in the process of developing opportunities for more service user engagement in a variety of areas connected to CHAI’s day to day service delivery for example Board Membership or Volunteering.

Our Board Members

Click on the arrows to read their biographies.

Rachel is a qualified Senior Programme and Project Manager, working in the public sector for VisitScotland, specialising in the delivery of their Digital Programme of work. She has extensive experience of working in digital and marketing agencies over her career in both public and private sectors, and brings her planning, digital and marketing experience to CHAI. Rachel has been a Director at CHAI since March 2020

Stuart joined the board in 2022 after returning to Edinburgh after spending 20+ years working and living overseas.  Stuart is a qualified Accountant and has spent most of his career in Financial Services.  His last role was the Finance Director of the Hong Kong Regulator.

  • Lesley has worked in the field of education and skills for over 20 years. She has directed and managed regional and UK wide skills programmes within the construction, logistics and tech sectors. She has considerable expertise in policy analysis, strategy development, leadership and programme management gained within the public sector.  Lesley runs her own business, Allermuir Consulting, which provides education and skills consultancy to businesses across Scotland. 

Grace studied Social Education in Germany and has experience as a Childcare Practitioner, a Support Worker and as a volunteer within the Third SectorShe is a member of the Citizens Panel which underpins and informs the work of our Whole Family Equality ProjectGrace also has experience of using employability services and a belief in the importance of high quality, person-centred services for New Scots.   

Niamh joined the board in 2022. After graduating from the University of Glasgow she secured a graduate position with the Wheatley Group, Scotland’s largest care and housing provider. In the last 2 years she has been working in the housing sector and most recently took on a role with Simon Community Scotland, a leading homelessness services provider. Alongside her housing experience, Niamh brings her analytical and solution-focused skill set to the board and an active interest in community empowerment.

Molly joined the Board of Directors in 2020 and works in hospitality. She holds an honours degree in Business Analysis and Technology from the University of Strathclyde and has previously consulted for a number of charities. Molly’s background is primarily in marketing and administration and she has continued her professional development with a qualification in Community Development and international experience. Molly brings her creative and analytical skillset to CHAI.

Helen is a qualified solicitor working in-house at a large financial services firm. She has over 17 years’ experience in the corporate sector. Helen joined our Board in June 2022 and brings with her significant leadership, risk management and governance experience to support CHAI. She also has previous experience mentoring charities in other parts of the UK.

With over 20 years of experience in IT across the private, public, and third sectors, James has established a robust career marked by leadership and technical expertise. Previously serving as the Head of IT at Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland, James played a crucial role in enhancing the organisations technological infrastructure. Currently, James is a Microsoft 365 Engineer at the People’s Postcode Lottery, where he continues to leverage his extensive experience to optimise and manage advanced IT solutions.

Leila joined the board in 2022 and has over 20 years’ experience in social housing, both in Councils and Housing Associations. Leila specialised in Income Collection with a focus on service improvement and change management to sustain tenancies and put tenants at the centre of decision making. Since September 2022 now working as a Collections Manager for a national finance organisation.

Laura is an HR Director who joined the board in 2024. Laura comes with a BA Hons in Social Sciences and MSc in Human Resource Management.  Laura has spent over 15 years working in Human Resources across the public, private and third sector at both an operational and strategic level.

Our Management Team

Teresa has worked for CHAI since 1997 when our organisation was first established. She works closely with our Board of Directors to provide leadership and vision to CHAI Staff, Volunteers and Service Users. The role also includes stakeholder communication, financial planning, and governance. Teresa has a passion for the work we do and the positive changes we make to vulnerable people’s lives.  She has a Diploma in Accountancy and 20+ years’ experience in Finance and 15+ years of Management experience. Teresa used to work as our Finance Manager where she oversaw all finance, administration, and HR.  She is a full member of the Association of Accounting Technicians and is currently working towards level 5 with the Institute of Leadership and Management.

Steven is our Service Manager for the Financial Wellbeing Team. He has worked at CHAI for 12 years and is a specialist in housing support, energy advice; and when he was a Senior Advisor he dealt with debt and welfare benefits. Steven worked as a Deputy Service Manager before his current post. Steven completed a Bachelor of Arts with honours in Sociology (Edinburgh University) as a mature student, and an MSc in Housing and Regeneration (Herriot Watt University). His previous related work experience includes research into young people and homelessness as a council employee in the same field.

Stella has worked at CHAI for 18 years.  She completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work at Glasgow University in 1998 and has over 30 years’ experience in the social welfare field. This experience includes working for a number of charities in the provision of mental health advocacy, homelessness support and counselling

Andrew comes from a background in community activism and has a master’s degree in Scots law. Andrew lectured at university and was the editor of SCOLAG Legal Journal before he became a volunteer for CHAI.  He has worked a variety of projects delivering advice and assistance on welfare benefits, housing rights, money advice, and representation in tribunals and the sheriff court.

Emma joined CHAI in January 2022.  She is an experienced charity fundraiser and has worked in the charity sector for 17+ years. Previous fundraising roles have included Teenage Cancer Trust, Myeloma UK and Cancer Research UK. Emma has a commitment and desire to make a difference for those less fortunate in our communities.

Cindy joined CHAI in 2015 and was initially employed as a Housing Adviser and is now our Training and Compliance Consultant. She has 13-year experience in welfare rights, debt and housing advice and has worked for both Granton Information Centre and Cyrenians. In 2017, she was asked
to lead on CHAI’s Training and Development, and in the intervening years has developed a comprehensive training programme on welfare benefits and debt advice. Cindy trains all our volunteers and new staff, and provides a continuous training programme for staff on new legislation through regular training sessions and news digests. She also manages compliance to make sure CHAI adheres to the Scottish National Advice Standards.

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