Hundreds relying on outreach service
Bureau chief fears for future as welfare reforms begin to bite
Two hundred people a month are relying on the outreach service run by the Rutherglen and Cambuslang Citizen’s Advice Bureau, the Reformer can reveal.
Half of that figure are attending for advice on benefits as the impact of welfare reform starts to bite.
The outreach service was set up by CAB 18 months ago, and since its inception has proved vital to the area.
The service involves a volunteer from the CAB setting up a station at a location in the community to offer advice. It is aimed at people who would struggle to travel to their offices in Cambuslang.
Currently there are nine outreach services throughout Rutherglen and Cambuslang. From November 2013 to May 2014 a total of 3,592 visited the service.
That number does not include those who use the CAB’s main base in Cambuslang.
Figures given to us by Rutherglen and Cambuslang CAB manager Sharon Hampson also revealed that the outreach centres alone are responsible for recouping £630,000 entitled to their clients. Much of this has
Rutherglen and Cambuslang Citizens Advice Bureau manager Sharon Hampson insists there would be a “major” impact on the community if their outreach programme was lost.
The Rutherglen and Cambuslang CAB deploy the outreach programme in nine locations throughout the area.
This involves a volunteer from the CAB setting up in a location in the community to offer the same service that is available in their main office in Cambuslang Main Street.
It is designed for people who would struggle to travel to the Cambuslang office.
And since its inception in 2014, the service has proved invaluable. It is funded until February, however Sharon has already started looking for finance to keep it going.
There are outreach facilities in Burnhill Sports Centre, Cathkin Braes Tenants Co- op, Fernhill Community Centre, Rutherglen and Cambuslang Housing Association, Spittal Community Hall, Springhall Community Centre, Westburn Community Hall and Whitlawburn Resource Centre. They have opened a new outreach facility in Rutherglen Health Centre, which started a month ago.
Since starting up, the outreaches have tended to just under 3600 clients. From that, they have managed to get client financial gain of £630,000. For the whole CAB service the total client financial gains stands at £2,050,020. The outreach programme makes up around 30 per cent of that figure.
Financial gain is where the CAB help a client get money to which they are entitled. This could be advising on what benefits they are entitled to and other issues, such as how to get a refund from a faulty product or service.
They have also issued 86 foodbank vouchers.
Of the total number of residents seeking advice, 49 per cent came to the outreach programmes with benefits issues. Around 16 per cent came with debt problems and eight per cent with housing issues.
The programme was initially funded by a Big Lottery Grant. That runs out in August, however the Big Lottery were so impressed with the numbers they extended it until November. Sharon has also managed to secure a further £10,000 grant from Warburtons which will secure the service until February next year.
Beyond that however she is not sure where she can go for funding: “I really don’t know what we are going to do, we’ll have to look for funding externally.
“It would have a major impact on the community if we had to stop it. It was quite slow when we started, but when word got out it started to get really busy. It’s now gotten to a point where many people rely on the outreach facility.
“If we were to stop the outreaches we would struggle as we’d then have over 3000 extra clients accessing the main bureau, or you’d have the position where some clients wouldn’t be able to access our services since they couldn’t travel to the main offices.”
In fact the outreach service at Rutherglen and Cambuslang Housing Association is so popular they have had to switch it from a drop- in to appointment only. Sharon is also seeking to open another outreach in Rutherglen Main Street.
She added: “Sometimes there was 10, 11 or 12 clients a day and that’s far too much for one of our advisors to see.
“It got to the stage where they didn’t have enough time to write up their cases. The appointment only service has been running for a month and it is working much better.”
Sharon says any funding gained is to cover the rent for the outreach programme. Although Cathkin Braes Tenants co- op, Rutherglen and Cambuslang Housing Association, Burnhill Sports Centre and the Whitlawburn Resource Centre don’t charge the CAB for use of their facilities, rent for the other places can soon mount up: “A lot of the outreaches can charge us up to £9.60 an hour.
“That might not seem like a lot but if we’re doing from 10am till 3pm that’s £50 a day. If we’re doing that 52 weeks a year that’s two and half grand and that’s just for one outreach facility.”
Sharon also paid tribute to the Rutherglen CAB volunteers.
She added: “Without our volunteers none of this would be possible. Sometimes people forget that they are volunteers and they are giving up their time to do this.”
Manager Sharon Hampson