In light of the impact of welfare reform on local residents, Clackmannanshire Council has agreed to extend its partnership with the Citizens Advice Bureau.
At last week's Council meeting Councillors agreed to transfer £17,000 from the Housing Revenue Account to CAB to allow it to expand the services it offers to council tenants experiencing problems with debts.
Spokesperson for the voluntary sector Councillor Janet Cadenhead said: "There is little doubt that the ongoing welfare reforms are leaving many residents struggling, not just financially, but with the ability to understand the benefits system to maximise the support available to them. CAB is now in a strong position to provide a comprehensive money advice service to all residents in Clackmannanshire, allowing the Council to concentrate on core functions and prevention activities. This investment shows the Council's commitment to supporting the most vulnerable people in our community, as well as the Council's ongoing commitment to the third sector."
As well as its professional staffing complement, CAB maximises the impact of grant funding by utilising the services of highly trained and motivated volunteers. CAB Alloa currently has 31 volunteers. It is part of a national network, its services are independent and the CAB brand is trusted by the public. Having all advice services under one roof means that the public will also be clear on where to go to receive advice to suit their circumstances.
In the last financial year Council staff dealt with 106 new advice cases, with combined debts of over £1million. 71% of these cases had household incomes of less than £15,000. 89% had council tax arrears, with the average figure of £2550, and 45% had rent arrears with an average figure of £979.
In response to these figures, as well as helping residents dealing with the consequences of debt through the extended CAB service, the Council intends for its staff to focus on preventative work to help tenants and other customers avoid getting into debt in the first place.
CAB advises that its case workers are expected to take on 160-200 cases per year. The types of cases cover all complex debts including debt arrangement and bankruptcy cases including any court representation.
This new service will be regularly evaluated to ensure that it provides value for money and that CAB's costs are being met.