IN addition to every year providing help for more than 2,000 people living in this area, the work of Citizens Advice helps our hard pressed local councils save a lot of money.
This has been acknowledged by West Dorset’s MP, Sir Oliver Letwin, who has said: “Being able to refer some of our more vulnerable residents to a local organisation such as Citizens Advice has delivered direct savings to essential services, freeing up resources and budgets.”
Some of the biggest gains come from its work in preventing homelessness and housing evictions which across Dorset as a whole is estimated to save local authorities more than £500,000 annually.
The work that Citizens Advice does supporting families through providing financial advice, maximising income and helping people with housing and employment issues eases the workload of the council departments responsible for the care of vulnerable children. In addition it can assist those responsible for adult services by supporting elderly people with care needs.
Additionally the advice that it is able to offer people having problems paying their council tax leads to local councils managing to recover arrears that otherwise would have to be written off.
The focus of Citizens Advice is always to try and ensure that people have the ability to take control of their long-term futures and lead independent lives and this significantly reduces the demand on our public services.
Its team of trained advisers, the majority of whom are volunteers, have the ability to assess individual needs and save time and money by pinpointing the services that are best able to help each individual.
This work will be particularly important during the forthcoming changes in local government which from the start of April will see West Dorset District Council disappear and become part of the new Dorset Council.
Another part of the work of Citizens Advice is supporting people suffering from ill health and, in particular, ensuring that they get the benefits to which they are entitled.
It works closely with Macmillan to support those suffering from cancer and their families. This often includes helping them access the financial support that is available and deal with other issues related to their cancer diagnosis.
The help that Citizens Advice provides in supporting employment also has a direct benefit on the local economy. Many of the jobs in this area are in the tourist sector where short term seasonal work and zero hours’ contracts are common. As a result many struggle to maintain regular employment and by helping people overcome these challenges this increases income and has a positive impact on the community.
The local economy benefits too from the advice that is provided to try and ensure that everyone gets the correct amount of money from Universal Credit, the new benefits system that is being introduced.
Citizens Advice is continuing to run two sessions a week in Lyme Regis which anyone is welcome to attend, even if they do not have an appointment. These are held on Mondays between 10am and 12noon at the medical centre in Uplyme Road, DT7 3LS and on Wednesdays from 10am to 3pm at St Michael’s Business Centre, DT7 3DB, in the centre of the town. The advice that is provided is always free, confidential and impartial.
Advice sessions are also held every weekday between 10am and 3pm at the offices of Citizens Advice in South Street, Bridport, DT6 3NY.
There is in addition the facility to contact Citizens Advice by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 03442 451291, which will get you through to the Dorset AdviceLine.