Hun­dreds re­ly­ing on out­reach ser­vice

Bureau chief fears for fu­ture as wel­fare re­forms be­gin to bite

Rutherglen Reformer - - Front Page - Will Hen­shaw

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

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