Demand for Citizens Advice continues to grow

citizens adviceTHE demand locally for Citizens Advice continues to grow, with the number of people seeking advice from Bridport and District Citizens Advice, which includes Lyme Regis, having increased by 20 per cent in the last year.

A report which is to be presented to next week’s annual meeting of Citizens Advice in Dorset (CAiD) will show that more than 15,000 people were helped during the year (2018-2019) in the area covered by the new Dorset Council, the unitary authority which replaced five former district councils and the County Council in April.

There are more than 30 places in the Dorset Council area where people can receive face to face advice and two of these are in Lyme Regis. Every week there are advice sessions 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.

No appointment is required to visit Citizens Advice and the advice that will be provided will always be free, confidential and impartial.

One important responsibility that CAiD undertakes is to manage the Dorset Advice Partnership, which works closely with Dorset Council. The partnership is a grouping of more than 40 local organisations and helps ensure that people seeking help are able to access the advice they require from the most appropriate source.

By working together these organisations are able to be an effective voice for the advice sector to influence decision-making. They can jointly provide evidence of need, and the value of the advice that they are able to provide, encourage joint working to make more effective use of resources, provide opportunities to share good practice, avoid duplication and offer training.

A new project that CAiD has taken on is to provide advisers from Citizens Advice to help the refugee families who have recently moved to the county following the decision by Dorset Council to support the work of the Syrian Resettlement Programme being funded by the government. There is already local interest in this project as the Uplyme Community Sponsorship Scheme has been working for some time to raise sufficient funds to be able to house a Syrian refugee family in the Lyme Regis area.

Another partner of CAiD is the Dorset Race Equality Council which supports the advice needs of black and minority ethnic communities, as part of its aim strengthening community relations in Dorset. During the Brexit debate Citizens Advice has highlighted the importance of holding briefings for EU migrants.

CAiD’s annual meeting will be told that Bridport and District Citizens Advice continues to recruit good numbers of volunteers which has ensured that there has been no problem coping with the extra numbers seeking help. During the year there were 74 volunteers, comprising 53 advisers, 13 support staff and eight trustees. There are also six part-time paid staff.

Collaboration with other local Citizens Advice offices in Dorset has enabled efficiencies to be made and this has led to a reduction in costs.

In addition to the two advice sessions held each week in Lyme Regis, anyone seeking help from Citizens Advice is also welcome to visit its offices in South Street, Bridport (DT6 3NY) every weekday between 10am and 3pm. Alternatively they can contact Citizens Advice by email on advice@bridport-cab.org.uk or by telephone on 03442 451 291, which gets you through to the Dorset AdviceLine.

For people having problems with Universal Credit they can contact Citizens Advice on a national freephone number which is 03444 111 444 and the webchat support service is available through its website.

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