Wealden District Council has agreed to increase the funding it gives to Wealden Citizens Advice by £15,000 to £165,000 a year.
Citizens Advice had requested £180,000 from the Council for the next two years, to help meet an increased demand for its services caused by changes to the welfare system such as universal credit.
On 6th March, Crowborough Town Council agreed to award Citizens Advice £21,500 and to continue with their 3 year rolling contract.
In 2016/17, Citizens Advice helped 4,520 residents with nearly 18,000 issues at its three centres in Uckfield, Crowborough and Hailsham.
Already in the first three quarters of this financial year, Citizens Advice saw 4,131 clients, dealing with over 12,143 increasingly complex issues.
Councillor Claire Dowling, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Community Safety, said:
It is important we do all we can to support the work being done by Wealden Citizens Advice, despite our own limited resources and demands to continue to provide Service Level Agreements to other crucial local organisations.
I note with some concern that, with its workload increasing, Citizens Advice has seen a 10% fall in volunteer numbers since 2015/16. It is taking steps to counter this, but I hope anyone who feels they could help Citizens Advice in its valuable work, will consider getting in touch via its website
Wealden Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Kay Birch said:
We are incredibly grateful to Wealden District Council for this vote of confidence in the service our committed team provides. Many of those who seek our help are in crisis – without this funding our service would simply not exist and we would not be able to provide the lifeline they need.
Approving the increase Service Level Agreement, Wealden’s Cabinet was impressed with Citizens Advice’s record in helping local people. During 2016/17, its customers were £5 million better off, either through accessing additional income or by being able to write off debt. Its 107 volunteers, each giving up at least one day a week to provide help and advice, committed over £515,000 worth of voluntary hours during the same year. It means that, for every £1 Wealden Citizens Advice invested, there was a return of £46.53. Every £1 invested in the service saves the taxpayer £3.25, by helping to prevent evictions and homelessness; helping to maintain people in work rather than relying on benefits; and through improving people’s health and well-being.
Furthermore, Wealden Citizens Advice’s customer satisfaction survey rating last year was 100%, with 4 out of 5 respondents feeling less stressed and anxious as a result of the help they received.
As well as offices in Uckfield, Crowborough and Hailsham, Wealden Citizens Advice provides outreach services in Heathfield, Polegate and Willingdon. Citizens provides free, confidential, independent and impartial advice and campaigns on the big issues affecting people’s lives. It helps people with a range of issues, including money, benefit, housing and employment problems. Its clients are five times as likely to be living on a low income as the national average and twice as likely to be living with a long term health condition or disability.
- One in three are seeking assistance with welfare benefits or tax credits.
- One in five are seeking help because of financial difficulty.
- One in ten are seeking help because of a housing issue.
- Other major categories include employment, relationships and family matters.
The previous three year Service Level Agreement for Citizens Advice, set in 2015, was for £150,000 a year.
To get in touch with Wealden Citizens Advice see their website: www.wealdencitizensadvice.org.uk.