Funding boost recommended for Wealden Citizens Advice

Wealden Citizens Advice could receive grant funding of £150,000 a year for the next three years from the district council.

The council’s cabinet will make a decision today, Wednesday, March 18, which could see the grant increase from the current £137,000 a year but not reach the £197,344 requested.Citizens Advice Bureau

A report to cabinet says Wealden Citizens Advice has offices in Uckfield, Crowborough and Hailsham and provides outreach services via Skype in Wadhurst and Polegate.

Face to face appointments are still the most requested appointments even though work has been done to introduce other ways of contacting the organisation, such as by email and through the internet.

The grant provided by the council accounts for around two thirds of the service’s core funding.

The report says: “The council recognises the value of Wealden Citizens Advice and the vital support and service it provides to Wealden’s residents.

“The recommended grant award of £150,000 represents 72.5% of the total Service Level Agreement budget available for the financial year 2015/6.

“During the past three years the WCA has been very proactive in applying for external funding and were successful in receiving £300,000 over a two-year period from The Big lottery fund Advice Services Transition Fund.

“This funding has helped to provide debt advice and support services by working with a wide range of partners including the council.

“All partners involved have been working hard to improve provision throughout Wealden and to further support the advice hubs across the district.”

Citizens Advice provides key services on behalf of the council including advice on welfare benefits, debt, housing, unemployment, homelessness prevention, relationship problems, legal aid and signposting.

The report to cabinet says that in 2013/14 4841 Wealden residents presented 17,000 issues to the three bureaux. The actions of the service gained £2.2m in financial outcomes for clients. Volunteer numbers increased from 103 to 130 committing over 103,000 hours.

In the first three quarters of this financial year WCA have seen 3573 clients raising 15,210 issues. Financial outcomes gained for clients amount to £1,768,016 so far this year.

Welfare benefits, tax credits and debt continue to account for well over half of all queries.

Citizens Advice applied for increased funding because of increasing competition to secure funding from national programmes and local funding sources.

The organisation also wishes to strengthen its digital inclusion programme and introduce services such as webchat.

“The council are requiring WCA to provide universal credit advice on behalf of the council in order to deliver the required support to claimants. Therefore it is recognised that an increase in grant funding is required.”

An increase to £150,000 a year for three years is recommended.

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