Monday, 22 March 2010

Citizens Advice Bureau Sees Increase In Calls

The Gainsborough Standard is reporting that troubled economic times have led to an 'unprecedented' surge in people seeking help from staff and volunteers at the West Lindsey Citizens Advice Bureau.

The papers reporter, Ms Jen Foster, visited the Citizens Advice Bureau office on North Street, Gainsborough to learn more about the work they do.
West Lindsey District councillors have recently voted to give increased funding to the bureau.

Ms Jenny Barnett, Bureau Manager, is reported to have said
"This office does not just cover Gainsborough but the whole of West Lindsey. We offer general advice on a range of issues including debt, benefits, finances, tax, housing, consumer, family and relationship issues.
"Helping people builds on their self esteem and ultimately creates community cohesion. There are many volunteers helping at the bureau and this has been the ethos of the CAB for more than seventy years."
The Citizens Advice Bureau goes back to 1938 when the prospect of war loomed, the National Council of Social Services, the forerunner of today's National Council of Voluntary Organisations, established a group to look at how to meet the war-time needs of the civilian population.

The group recommended that Citizens Advice Bureaux be established, particularly in the large cities where social disorganisation was expected to be 'acute'.

War was declared on Sunday, 3rd September 1939 and the first two hundred bureaux opened on Monday, 4th September 1939. Arrangements for bureaux varied wildly – one even operated out of a horsebox. Seven decades later, the Citizens Advice Bureau are advising two million clients on six million problems from three thousand three hundred locations.

The Citizens Advice Bureau in Gainsborough is staffed by seventeen paid staff, and thirteen volunteers, and demand for their services is going up and up as the recession forces more people to get their heads round issues like debts, and redundancy. In 2010, the town's bureau expects to receive over eight thousand queries from more than two thousand people.

"The past year has been a particularly difficult time for people. There are those who would not have needed our services in the past who are now having to get in touch.

"Our services are always free, independent, and impartial, and everything discussed will remain strictly confidential."
Volunteers can use their time at the Citizens Advice Bureau to gain valuable skills for the workplace, increase confidence, keep active, or to try to make a difference to other people's lives.

She added:
"It is very rewarding and satisfying work. It is a chance to help people take control of their lives. We have a great team of hard-working staff and volunteers, and they all say they feel like they are giving something back to the community."
One of those volunteers is named as Mr. Phil Simon, the paper reports, who started at the centre about ten months ago, works on the 'gateway' advice line, where people phone in and Mr. Simon can assist them with their enquiry or helps refer them or put them through to the appropriate Citizens Advice Bureau agency.

"Spending time here is a great way to help a section of the local community, and the people here are superb which makes it all very enjoyable."
The Citizens Advice Bureau is in an independent charity with a core of funding through Government grants but they are also reliant on charitable grants.

"We are very grateful for the support of the district and town council, and we can use this funding to increase our services. One of our objectives in the future is to reach out to people in particularly rural areas."
The Citizens Advice Bureau on 26 North Street is open from 9.30am-1.30pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays with sessions by appointment only. Translation services are available.
To speak to an advisor, or if you would like to become a volunteer you can call 01427 810914. Advice provided is free, independent, confidential, and available to anyone regardless of race, agenda, disability, sexual orientation, age, or nationality

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