ISSUES relating to welfare benefits continued during the last year to be the reason people most often contacted the local offices of Citizens Advice, with a growing number of them wanting to discuss the controversial new system of Universal Credit, which was introduced in this area towards the end of last year.
But it has announced that housing has now overtaken debt as the second largest enquiry area and Citizens Advice said this reflects the increasing problems both of securing affordable accommodation and homelessness with concerns regularly being expressed about the high number of empty homes in West Dorset.
The efforts of Citizens Advice can help people to remain in their homes and supports the homeless prevention work that is undertaken by local councils.
In Lyme Regis it has been estimated that more than 20 per cent of the properties in the town are second homes and this adds to the problems for many people of finding somewhere to live.
Polly Neate, chief executive of the housing charity Shelter, commented recently: “It’s clear that our country is in the firm grip of a housing crisis, with everyone from young children and their families through to older people bearing the brunt.”
The area manager for Shelter, Catherine Parker, has been invited to review the housing situation locally when she addresses the annual meeting of Bridport and District Citizens Advice, which covers Lyme Regis, which is taking place at Bridport Town Hall on Monday, July 16 starting at 7.30pm. Her talk will be entitled ‘Welcome to Dorset, where homelessness meets the perfect place to live’.
During the last year the local offices of Citizens Advice have also seen an increase in the number of people contacting them about employment concerns with the top issues including pay and entitlements, terms and conditions and dismissal.
Bryan Brown, chairman of Bridport and District Citizens Advice, said: “We are very concerned about the significant number of local people facing difficulties with housing and employment.
“Overall more than 2,000 people now seek our help each year, many more than in past, and as a result we need around 80 volunteer advisers to cope with our workload. All of them have undertaken a thorough training course and do a fantastic job. I am most grateful to all of them.
“Members of the public and interested parties or organisations are most welcome to attend our annual meeting and find out more about the work we do. We will also be delighted to answer any questions at the end when some light refreshments will be served.”
On a trial basis for the remainder of this year a second advice session is now being run by Citizens Advice in Lyme Regis every week. The regular weekly advice session is still being held every Wednesday from 10am to 3pm at the St Michael’s Business Centre, DT7 3DB, in the centre of the town and at least until December sessions are also being held on Mondays between 10am and 12noon at the Lyme Regis Medical Centre in Uplyme Road, DT7 3LS.
If these times are inconvenient anyone can instead go to the Citizens Advice offices at South Street, Bridport, DT6 3NY which holds a session every weekday between 10am and 3pm.
In addition you can contact Citizens Advice by email on email@example.com or telephone 0344 245 1291, which will get you through to the Dorset AdviceLine.
Advice obtained from Citizens Advice will always be free, confidential and impartial and everyone is welcome to visit any of its sessions, even if they do not have an appointment.