Grantham’s Citizens Advice Bureau is surpassing the national trend

CITIZENS Advice Bureaux in South Kesteven are operating “way above” the national trend, according to the charity’s director of policy.

Teresa Perchard was speaking at the annual meeting of South Kesteven Citizens Advice Bureau at Stamford Town Hall, where an audience of 40 people heard 5,751 people had been helped with 15,070 queries, an increase of 13 per cent on the previous year.

She said: “This is unusual to see such rude health in this organisation. You are performing way above the national trend, for enquiries, which is flat. It is also good to see you have the financial reserves to do more, and that you are going to do just that. Many other bureaux are sorting out huge problems as to how to survive.”

She added: “The service and independent advice we provide is not available anywhere else in Britain today and it is mostly delivered by trained advisers who are volunteers.”

She explained how feedback and information from the 380 bureaux nationwide, who advise two million people in addition to the one million who access the website each month and 1.5 million who ring the national call centre, is used to influence national policy and Government thinking.

An example is the “Super Complaint” the CAB lodged in 2004 over the selling and administration of Personal Protection Insurance, which lead to an Office of Fair Trading investigation and report recommending the Government order banks and building societies to set aside billions of pounds to resolve the problem.

Mrs Perchard said: “These evidence-based campaigns are very powerful and we are the only organisation who can deliver them across such a wide-ranging number of areas, in particular, welfare, finance, legal, employment and housing.”

SKCAB costs £323,295 to run in the year to end of March 2012 and made a net profit of £65. The money comes from various sources, including donations from supporters and fund-raising activities.

Chairman of trustees Adrian Arnold said he was “particularly pleased” with the core service providers of SKDC and the county council, who he said recognised the CAB was a “frontline service that, whilst being totally independent, complements those provided by councils”.

Strategic manager John Willoughby said highlights of the year had been a move into new offices at the Guildhall, Grantham, and alterations to the accommodation at Stamford to provide more space, which meant both locations were now more accessible.

Around a third of all SKCAB enquiries involve debt, another third benefits and advice is given by a team made up of 77 per cent volunteers, which it has been estimated is the equivalent of more than £245,000 in time every year.

Mr Willoughby said: “Our office in Grantham has seen the biggest increase in clients. Particularly in the first three months of this year.”

* Grantham CAB is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 9.30am-1pm at The Guildhall Arts Centre, St Peter’s Hill. There are other services in Stamford, Marketing Deeping and Bourne. Email advice is available through the website: www.southkestevencab.co.uk