BRIDPORT and District Citizens Advice have marked national Volunteers Week by praising its nearly 70 volunteers whose efforts during the last year have included making it possible to double the number of advice sessions that are held in Lyme Regis.
It continues to hold a session every Wednesday between 10am to 3pm at St Michael’s Business Centre, but its advisers are now also available on Mondays between 10am and 12noon at Lyme Regis Medical Centre in Uplyme Road.
Overall Bridport and District Citizens Advice has helped more than 2,000 local people in the last year with more than 6,500 problems and this would not have been possible without the huge contribution made by its volunteers.
Most of these contribute a day a week of their time and their manager, Rovarn Wickremasinghe, said: “Our volunteers contribute their time and energy to make a huge difference to people’s lives and help keep our vital service running and I am delighted that we have continued to find enough people to enable us to cope with a significant growth in our workload in recent years.
“All of them start by taking part in a very rigorous training programme which ensures that they have the knowledge to cope with the wide range of work that is involved.”
Citizens Advice, which was formed 80 years ago just before the Second World War, is now supported by 22,000 volunteers across England and Wales who assist people with a whole range of problems, such as debt, housing, benefit and employment issues, as well as raising funds and keeping the service running smoothly.
Sarah Ellis, a trustee for Bridport and District Citizens Advice, said: “It’s important to us that we reflect the communities we work with. We are always looking for volunteers with real experiences and would particularly welcome younger people and those from diverse backgrounds.”
A major reason for the growth in its workload has been helping local people who are struggling with making a claim for Universal Credit, the new social security system that is replacing six means-tested benefits and tax credits with a single monthly payment.
All the volunteer advisers have received a full briefing on who is eligible, how it is calculated and the rules for making a claim. They are also able to assist clients to apply for discretionary payments, charitable grants and emergency payments.