UTTOXETER is set to lose a much-valued advice service – as the area's Citizen Advice charity is to close. After 26 years of providing vital help to residents, Citizens Advice Mid Staffordshire will be closing its doors on March 31 – due to acute funding pressures. With its main advice centres in Burton and Tamworth, the charity has also been offering outreach sessions to Uttoxeter residents from the town's library every Wednesday.
Carl McInerney, chair of trustees at Citizens Advice Mid Staffordshire, said: “It is with deep regret that we have taken the decision to close the service.
“The board has been working extremely hard behind the scenes to keep the service running. “However, unfortunately we have been left with no available route which allows us to keep our doors open.
“The hard work of our staff and volunteers makes an immeasurable difference to the people in the area. Their support, knowledge and compassion over the years has had a real impact on local people.
“In the meantime, we will work closely with funders and local partners and make all efforts possible to keep these important services available to the local community.”
Chief Executive Officer of Mid Staffs Citizen Advice, Dawn Green, confirmed that the outreach sessions in Uttoxeter will be affected by the charity’s closure announcement, and that the sessions will end ‘imminently’.
She said: “I can confirm this will affect the sessions at Uttoxeter Library.
“At this stage the sessions are set to close imminently. I am not aware of any campaign to keep them open.”
Uttoxeter Town Mayor Alison Trenery said of the announcement: “The loss of the Citizens Advice service based in Uttoxeter Library will be a real blow to the residents of Uttoxeter and the surrounding area.
“This selfless band of workers and volunteers have provided a ready and much-needed source of advice and support for thousands of people over the years, and the loss of their support will have a real impact on people’s ability to deal with their problems and challenges.
“People will now need to look to online support or go further afield, or maybe locally make use of MP’s and county and borough councillors’ surgeries to find face-to-face advice and support.
“The loss of the service is also a blow to the dedicated CAB volunteers who have given so much of their time to helping people and now find themselves forced to stand aside and offer no further support.”
Uttoxeter Citizen Advice volunteer Susan Edge said: “We provide help and advice on a wide range of topics such as family breakdown, housing, debt and employment issues. This is advice that is not readily available anywhere else, especially in a small town with poor transport links.
“Hardest hit will be the disabled and people with mental health and learning difficulties who struggle to complete the lengthy and complicated application forms for Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance and Carer’s Allowance.
“We also authorise food parcels to people awaiting benefit payments during the lengthy appeals process.”
During the financial year of 2017/18, the amount of debt which the Uttoxeter sessions dealt with was £166,458 which involved a total of 70 clients.
Dawn added: “Funding to support the Uttoxeter sessions ended three years ago. We explored alternative funding for example from Uttoxeter Town Council but the application was not successful.”
In response, Cllr Trenery said: “I am assuming that CAB approached the town council at around the time of their original loss of funding three years ago as, to the best of my knowledge, we have not received an application from them recently.
“That said, the town council has only limited funds and is not in a position to provide ongoing funding to CAB, which, sadly, is only one of a number of valuable community organisations to lose funding from the much larger county and borough councils and have to seek resources elsewhere.”
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