More households turn to CAB

ONE in seven Suffolk households last year turned to the Citizen's Advice Bureau for help as the recession took its toll on family budgets.

ONE in seven Suffolk households last year turned to the Citizen's Advice Bureau for help as the recession took its toll on family budgets.

This 14.5per cent increase was fuelled by record levels of debt, with more than 45,000 people in financial difficulties asking for help from the charity, which this year is celebrating its 70th anniversary.

The extra caseload has forced the CAB to seek emergency funding from the county council of �150,000, shortly after councillors had voted to redistribute the grants it paid to centres across Suffolk.

In a report for the county's public protection scrutiny committee, bureau manager Janet John revealed that offices in Suffolk had dealt with 45,955 cases of debt totalling �55.5million in 2008/09.

She said: “The impacts of debt advice include maintaining family stability, keeping people in employment, avoiding stress related problems such as chronic heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and depression, avoiding criminal activity and homelessness, addressing inequalities and mitigating the adverse effects of social exclusion.”

Core funding from the county and districts was “crucial” to enable the bureaux to recruit, train and support volunteers to give advice on benefits, debt, housing, employment, immigration, education and travel.

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To help CAB cope with the upsurge in people seeking advice, the county council agreed to provide an extra �50,000 in 2008-09 and another �50,000 in 2009-10. A further �50,000 has been approved for the current year, which will be primarily on debt advice.

Until last year, the county match funded grants to bureaux in line with what district councils paid. Of the �376,247 in grants paid out by the county, bureaux in St Edmundsbury received the highest at �103,716 in aid from Suffolk, while Suffolk Coastal centres were given �65,784, Ipswich �60,183, Mid Suffolk �25,074 and Babergh �25,067.

Under the new system, the county council is restructuring its grants according to the population served by each bureau. Offices which will have their money cut have been promised transitional finance until March 31 2011.

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