Thanet’s Citizens Advice staff, trustees and volunteers have celebrated the work of an ‘extremely busy year’ but say funding issues could mean ‘substantially reducing the service.’
Chair of Trustees Geoff Lindley told members at an annual meeting this week that the service was expected to make a loss for the second year running and although it could again be covered from reserves this would be the last time that could happen.
He said: “Last year the service made a substantial loss, fortunately we were able to cover this with reserves. This year we are again forecasting another loss. We can meet from reserves again but that’s where it ends.
“Next year we cannot afford to budget for a loss. We have two alternatives – we attract more funding or substantially reduce the service we give for Thanet.
“None of us want that to happen, that will mean the people of Thanet are the ones who will really lose.”
The service is working to bring in more funds but will need to make a decision in December on what the future holds.
It had a decrease of £86,000 for the 2017/18 financial year – seeing funding go down from £427,000 to £341,000. This was due to some grants, such as one from EDF, coming to an end.
For 2017/18 the service received a grant of £113,750 from Thanet council and other funding including £10,000 from Ramsgate Town Council, £13,840 from Orbit Housing and £3,333 from Newington Big Local for advice sessions at the Green Roof Shelter.
A massive job
The funds have to cover a huge job carried out by a small army of volunteers and a handful of staff. In the 2017/18 year the 46 volunteers donated 9,641 hours and saw 3,653 clients.
Of these 1,243 people were helped with housing issues; 421 helped with council tax arrears; 151 people sought advice because they were facing homelessness and another 67 people came to the service because they were already homeless.
The Money Advice Service helped 355 people, managing debt of some £2million. They succeeded in getting £284,748 written off through debt relief orders and another £110,000 through bankruptcy.
Ageless Thanet, which work with the service, helped people gain an additional £277,342 income through areas such as pension credits.
But the service also needs volunteers.
Mr Lindley said: “Without the staff and volunteers there would be no citizens advice service in Thanet. This has been a very busy year and without the dedication of staff and volunteers the people of Thanet would have no-one to turn to for help to solve their problems.
“But demand on the service is increasing every year and unfortunately, at times, it exceeds capacity. We need more volunteers but the flow is declining. Two issues impact on this, people are longer rather than retiring at 65 and more and more grandparents are being used for childminding and that reduces the number of volunteers we have.”
Where Citizens Advice has made a difference
One man came to the service after having to deal with debt due to a $125,000 overpayment. The ex-servicemen suffered PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and had mobility issues.
The debt stress was having a huge impact on both his physical and mental health.
The Money Advice Service managed to reduce the debt to £19,500 and say he is now managing and recovering.
A second ex-serviceman had been sleeping in a tent on the beach. He had been robbed of his belongings, including Special Forces medals, and had no income.
The service helped him gain benefits and somewhere to live. They unfortunately could not replace his medals.
If you would like to volunteer with Thanet Citizens Advice call 01843 229696 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Drop in sessions are held at 38/40 Plains of Waterloo, Ramsgate from 9.30am to 12.30pm on Tuesday and Thursday
2nd floor, Mill House, Mill Lane, Margate, from 9.30am to 12.30pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.