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Citizens Advice Bureau staff helping to beat debt mountain
MONEY experts have helped people in Tang Hall tackle debts topping £110,000 while helping thousands of others identify unclaimed benefits worth £25,000 – all in only six months.
Citizens Advice Bureau staff have been working with the families at community-based meetings to resolve money matters while similar schemes have also been run in other areas including Acomb, Huntington and Wigginton.
The success of their work was revealed at York and district CAB’s annual meeting in West Offices, which included reports on the organisation’s work around the city in the last 12 months.
However, Michael Sturge, chairman of the service, said the past year had seen more people than ever approach the organisation, with the majority of queries relating to debt (6,190), and benefits (5,072).
Mr Sturge said: “Demand for our services has escalated, which in one sense gives a feeling that we must be doing something right, but on the other hand, it means there are heart-rending stories behind those we see.”
George Vickers, chief executive of the branch, noted that Oxfam and the Red Cross were now carrying out studies or handing out food packages in the UK, where before they would have worked mostly in Africa or poorer countries.
Mr Vickers said: “The sad truth is that we now have more and more clients where we cannot find a solution – people are getting what they are entitled to, they are managing their money well, but they simply cannot pay all the bills because their income is not enough.
“We want to see a poverty-free York. It is an aspiration we are not going to meet any time soon, but it is the right aspiration to be moving towards.”
The meeting heard the organisation would be training more volunteers to help with the service, and working more closely with other agencies in York, and Peter Finlay, family money advice project leader, said they could now build on the good work of the last 12 months.
He said: “People are coming to us because they want immediate help to get bailiffs off their backs and not be evicted and they want to stop escalating interest through payday loans and that is the main thing.
“A lot of time has gone into setting up outreach and it was like putting sticking plasters on several cuts. What we hoped to do in the first year was provide more financial advice and information, but we were overwhelmed with the number of cases coming to us who needed immediate help.”
‘The situation is getting worse’
FIGURES released by the Trussell Trust, which has set up 400 food banks across the UK, including three in York, showed they handed out supplies to more than 350,000 people between April and September this year.
The huge increase in numbers, which have almost trebled, has led the Trust to call for an inquiry by the Government. Chris Mould, executive chairman of the Trust, said: “We said in April that the increasing numbers of people turning to food banks should be a wake-up call to the nation, but there has been no policy response and the situation is getting worse.
“The level of food poverty in the UK is not acceptable. It’s scandalous and it is causing deep distress to thousands of people. The time has come for an official and in-depth inquiry into the causes of food poverty and the consequent rise in the usage of food banks.
“As a nation we need to accept that something is wrong and that we need to act now to stop UK hunger getting worse.”
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