Ceredigion CAB faces uncertain future

CEREDIGION Citizens Advice Bureau has warned that the public will be forced to take their problems to their MP if funding cuts go ahead after the latest announcement of a 5% year on year budget cut by Ceredigion County Council.

After losing out on a recent round of Supporting People grants together with the CAB’s legal aid ending, Bureau management is being forced to consider reducing opening and staff hours. The many vulnerable people who turn to CAB for help and advice will be left with no suitable alternative.

Chairman Paul Hinge says: ‘Annually, we are seeing a steady increase in the demand for the services CAB provides and the cases are becoming more complex and complicated. In the last 3 years demand has grown by double figures each year translating into over 12,401 issues dealt with by the bureau in Ceredigion.’

Many are not aware that the CAB is a local charity, one that relies solely on grant aid, the generosity of the public and various funding projects, which are becoming harder to secure. The bureau does not receive core funding centrally from Citizens Advice, instead it’s fully reliant on the Council and other projects, which means it has been dramatically affected for many years by having a stand-still budget allocation. It will take a heavier blow for 2014/15 if the Council’s proposed 5% actual reduction goes ahead. The indication is that this will just be the start of year-on-year cuts which certainly means the future outlook for free advice in Ceredigion looks bleak!

Chief Officer, Catrin Evans says: ‘We need around £180k per year to operate a basic service with an office in the North and South of the County. To include our specialist services, our funding needs to be in the region of £500,000. With our core funding from Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire only £70,981 in total per annum, finding the remaining money has become very difficult in the current funding climate. The CAB is currently undertaking a service review with the very real danger of office closure, reduced opening hours and reduced specialist support. Last year the bureau dealt with over 12,401 issues. With reduced funding the only option left to people will be to take their cases to local councilors, council services, the MP & AM.’

Staff at the CAB come under increasing pressure to respond to demands from other agencies, including those funded by the Council, to ‘help out’ with more complicated and specialist enquiries. Development Officer, Serretta Bebb, points out, ‘The Bureau’s specialist services, and the CAB itself, are under direct threat if the proposed cuts go ahead, which would leave many more agencies and services without our advisers as a go-to port of call. People in Ceredigion need to know that if the CAB isn’t properly funded, ultimately, it will be lost. And the costs – human and financial, as well as the detrimental effect it will have on other agencies to deliver their objectives – will be far in excess of the grant we are seeking.’

Cllr Hinge added: "If you want to continue to see a free, confidential, independent and impartial advice service in the community we urge you to write to your local councilor, MP and AM and sign our petition located at our offices. You can also help by making a donation, no matter how big or small, to Ceredigion CAB in Napier St, Cardigan or Cambrian Place, Aberystwyth or to our donate page on our website www.cabceredigion.org "

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