Help and advice from South Holland CAB

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Politicians talk of the recession being over, but that’s not the experience of South Holland Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

Chief officer Lisa Barwell says there is “a great deal of demand” for money advice, and adds: “As the recession bites deeper there is only more and more demand.

Lisa Barwell (right) and part of the team  at South Holland Citizens' Advice Bureau.Pictured are: back - Gordon Gooding, Suzy Pickering, Anthony Atkinson, Linda Huff; front - Lesley Eldridge, Christine Gratton, Sue Holdsworth, Lisa Barwell. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG040614-117TW

Lisa Barwell (right) and part of the team at South Holland Citizens' Advice Bureau.Pictured are: back - Gordon Gooding, Suzy Pickering, Anthony Atkinson, Linda Huff; front - Lesley Eldridge, Christine Gratton, Sue Holdsworth, Lisa Barwell. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG040614-117TW

“I can only look at the people coming through our door and the demand for advice and services, and money and welfare issues are on the increase.”

The bureau provides free advice on all kinds of problems, but by far the biggest area (at 44.6 per cent) is benefits advice. Of the 4,742 unique clients who visited the bureau in the last year, 2,115 people were struggling with benefits issues – benefit cuts as well as changes as a result of welfare reform. Lisa says: “It can be anything, from someone wanting assistance to claim job seekers allowance right through to a tribunal for disability benefits, we cover the whole spectrum.”

The next highest number is debt at 878 and employment at 552. If there are money problems it often follows that there are relationship difficulties, and 434 people sought advice on that topic, followed by 402 who needed advice on housing.

The bureau has been in South Holland for 26 years – currently based at the district council’s offices in Priory Road in Spalding with advice also offered in Holbeach, Long Sutton and Sutton Bridge.

A team of 89 people – 17 paid staff and an army of trained volunteers – man the bureau.

The local CAB also has its board of trustees which acts as its governing body – and Lisa would like to recruit a few more trustees.

Dave Briggs was appointed a trustee in August last year, attracted to the role after learning about the part CABs were playing as a result of changes to benefits.

Dave says: “In terms of being a trustee, you don’t need any specific training. It’s more about life experience and the skills you have that you can bring to the role.

“Lisa has to worry about the day to day minutiae; we should be thinking about the next four or five years.”

Lisa says the CAB likes its trustee body to reflect the local community – so it’s open to absolutely everyone. There is a governance meeting later this month to decide on a development plan for the future.

Visit the CAB offices in Priory Road during the week (10-4pm) to find out more about the role.