Over 10,000 Issues, £1m won for clients and one new manager – all in a year’s work for Western Isles Citizens Advice Service (WICAS).
In the Annual Report from WICAS, David Blaney said: “The past year has seen a lot of changes, challenges and achievements. In particular the Welfare Reform legislation has led to, as expected, a greater demand on our services.
“As the growing economic and financial pressures are felt by many in our community so has the need for debt advice increased as has advice to those who are facing difficulties in meeting rent and mortgage payments.”
During the year the four offices in the Western Isles dealt with client contacts totalling 6,267 who raised 10,112 issues.
The top enquiries of 35% related to Welfare Benefits with Employment and Support Allowance resulting in an unprecedented demand on the service provided by the WICAS staff.
Coming behind benefit advice were issues relating to multiple debt and money advice at 25% of all issues raised.
New debt related issues dealt with by the WICAS Money Advice Team came to a staggering £1,376.000
72% of all issues raised involved a combination of negotiating on behalf of clients and provision of advice within the offices using the various advice tools available to CAB staff including the Electronic
Information System, Adviser Net and the excellent welfare rights handbook provided by the Child Poverty Action Group.
75 clients were represented at Social Security and Employment Tribunals resulting in a 73% success rate which yielded a yearly amount of £297,062.
Client financial gains, including the above figure amounted to just under £1.2m. As some clients do not inform the bureaux of the financial outcome of successful advice, the amount is in all likelihood bound to be greater.
The four WICAS bureaux are continually looking for new volunteers who will be given training to carry out various duties in their offices and if anyone can give some of their time they can contact either of the offices for more information.
WICAS Training Officer, Norah MacPhee said: “Life is never dull in any of our offices and one look at the numerous and varied types of issues raised just goes to show how our volunteers can get hooked on their work as the variety of enquiries is endless.”
The Annual General Meeting will be held in Committee Room 1 at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on August 20th at 2pm, all are welcome to attend.
To find out more about the work of WICAS log on to: www.citizensadvicewesternisles.co.uk