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Service helps clients write off almost £150,000 of debt

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27 JAN

Service helps clients write off almost £150,000 of debt

By timesecholife on in All News, Community News

A community advice service has aided its clients in writing off £148,466 worth of debt in 2020/21, as well as helping in other monetary areas too. Cheadle Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) were forced to switch to an entirely digital service overnight in the wake of the pandemic.

A community advice service has aided its clients in writing off £148,466 worth of debt in 2020/21, as well as helping in other monetary areas too.

Cheadle Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) were forced to switch to an entirely digital service overnight in the wake of the pandemic.

However, it still managed to serve 1,505 people – a 30 per cent rise from 2019/20 – and helped them to receive a total income gain of £882,135.

Unsurprisingly, most interaction took place via phone or email but as restrictions eased, Cheadle CAB was able to meet some of those who struggle with technology face-to-face.

Thanks to mobile phone specialists Get Connected in December 2020, Cheadle CAB were able to distribute ten Lenovo tablets with two years free internet access to some of their “digitally excluded clients.”

Furthermore, Cheadle CAB was able to recruit over ten volunteers, linked clients up to a national Citizen’s Advice from Monday to Friday and introduced a 24-7 access channel to run alongside its always-open texting service.

The majority of the issues clients had during after effects of lockdown were to do with benefits and employment.

Most clients who used the service in the 2020/21 period were between 25 and 64 (around 80 per cent of the total amount), with 30-34 being the age category that saw most people come forward.

Overall, 34 per cent of Staffordshire Moorlands clients who enrolled in its money advice project came from Cheadle with the rest from surrounding areas including Leek (22 per cent) and Biddulph (13 per cent).

It helped to advise and reschedule £321,000 worth of debt in the 438 cases it dealt with, these mostly falling under the category of financial capability (20 per cent) and insolvency proceedings (18 per cent).

Nearly a third – 29 per cent – of the people who came forward for debt help were in full-time jobs while 12 per cent were unemployed with 28 per cent permanently sick or disabled.

Writing in their annual report, which was presented to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council recently, Chair Gill Burton and Chief Officer Julie Billingham jointly explained in a statement about the kind of year Cheadle CAB has had.

They said: “2020/21 has been a time of seismic change that none of us could have predicted.

“It has been a year of huge challenges to all – physically, mentally and financially – and sadly we are all too aware that there is not yet an end in sight.

“However, we are both immensely proud of the way Citizens Advice Cheadle has risen to this challenge.

“Having changed to a remote service overnight when the first lockdown was announced with a depleted team of paid staff and volunteers, our doors remained open, albeit virtually, at this critical time.

“Against this background of constant change and challenge we consistently scored green on the Quality of Advice we were giving to clients and by the end of the year we helped 30 per cent more clients than we did in 19/20.”

They added: “This is an outstanding achievement and can only come when your team works together to make it happen.

“We are immensely proud of them all and we would like to take this opportunity of thanking all our operational team; both paid and unpaid, most sincerely for the outstanding effort they have given us this year.

“Without them this service simply would not exist. We would also like to extend our thanks to the Trustee Board for their wise counsel in such a difficult year.”

Treasurer Margaret Grahamslaw added in a statement: “Financially, we have seen positive results from our funding strategy, to the tune of £51,000, or 70 per cent, above our predictions.

“We also achieved savings against our predicted expenditure – £26,000 on salaries, due to vacancy savings whilst restructuring the service, and a further £17,000 of savings in other overhead costs due to Covid restrictions.

“This hard work resulted in us achieving a surplus of £60,000 over our anticipated budget.”

Cheadle CAB thanked bodies including Cheadle Town Council, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, and The Community Foundation for Staffordshire, among many others, for their funding for the 2020/21 period.

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