Citizens Advice Bureau's funding drops as demand rises

Funding for the Citizens Advice Bureau has dropped but demand is rising

The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has been listening to peoples' troubles since it was founded in 1939.

The bulk of CAB's funding comes from local authorities who are themselves facing the squeeze. Cuts to legal aid mean many people will soon no longer be entitled to free advice on debt, benefits and housing.

When these cuts come into force, CABs which previously got funding from the government to provide that legal advice will lose out on the money - but still expect people to ask for the same help.

Steve Marsham is a qualified money advisor who works at North Walsham CAB in Norfolk and demand for his services has gone up during the economic downturn.

The CAB he works for previously got funding from a lottery grant but that has now been stopped. The reduction in funding means Mr Marsham's hours have been cut and his wages have been reduced by a third.

He told ITV Anglia he's not sure he can afford to continue working for Citizens Advice:

"All letters from banks and credit card companies say if you've got a problem, come and see the CAB. "But because of funding cuts my hours have been cut and I fear that my seven years of training may be lost to the CAB because I have to provide for my family too."

If Steve were to leave, this would be bad news for his clients. Katrina Elsey currently sees him for money advice and says its turned her family's life around.

She told Anglia News:

"We'd have been struggling a huge amount if we hadn't had this service here."

Across the East, funding for CAB is being squeezed at the same time that demand for their services is rising.

In 2003/4 North Walsham CAB dealt with 6,777 requests for advice but by 2011/2012 that had shot up to 18,049 requests.

Yet the North Walsham Bureau still face 30 per cent cuts and have just made two staff redundant.

Elsewhere, Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire had to make five redundancies this year and face a 20 per cent drop in funding, while Central Bedfordshire have had a ten per cent cut over two years.

The CAB say they are making efficiency savings - the CAB in Norwich for instance are planning to move to a cheaper building to save costs.

But advisers in the East say people cannot assume the CAB will just keep going.

The Chief Executive from Northampton Citizens Advice, Martin Lord, warns that without proper funding, the organisation won't be able to help those in need:

"We need stability and certainty in terms of what local councils can offer us. We need more certainty in terms of what the government may or may not provide in terms of replacing legal aid and we need greater support from corporates, such as banks and building societies."

In a statement, the Ministry of Justice told Anglia News:

""The Government has already committed £60million to support the provision of general advice by the Not for Profit sector over the next three years. "An additional £3.5million has been awarded to 45 Citizens Advice Bureaux and £1.6million awarded to 17 Law Centres through the Transition Fund."_ _

The CAB have a proud history in providing advice to the most vulnerable; advisers in the East hope that it in the coming years it will also have a stable future.