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CAB debt and outreach work under threat

SIC councillor Allison Duncan wants Shetland Charitable Trust to help Lerwick's Citizens Advice Bureau keep up its debt advice and outreach work.

DEBT advice and outreach work carried out by Lerwick’s Citizens Advice Bureau could be under threat after Shetland Charitable Trust said it was closed to new funding bids.

On Thursday councillor trustee Allison Duncan called on SCT to help the organisation if it failed to replace support it receives from the Big Lottery Fund, which runs out in March.

However trust chairman Bobby Hunter said budgets had been fixed until 2020 and there was no room to manoeuvre.

SCT has agreed to freeze its £130,000 per year grant to core fund CAB for four years from next April.

The organisation welcomed the funding, but warned that it would only pay for part of its service.

Two years ago the Big Lottery Fund stepped in to fund its debt advice and outreach work after Shetland Islands Council cut its level of grant funding temporarily.

At SCT’s meeting on Thursday, an impassioned Duncan called on the trust to step if funding could not be found from elsewhere.

“There’s still money to be distributed to Shetland people. This is Shetland’s money and the CAB are doing a brilliant job,” he said.

Charitable trust chairman Bobby Hunter said they were not in a position to help.

Hunter agreed CAB was “a very important and a very good organisation”, but said the trust was not in a position to help.

“We have set a budget for four years now, and if we’ve set a budget we have to stick to it,” he said, suggesting CAB approach the Shetland Community Planning Board instead.

Earlier this year SCT announced a raft of cuts to Shetland organisations and trusts over the next four years, but CAB is one organisation whose funding is to remain static until 2020.

A CAB spokesperson said: “The bureau is in a financially sound position. However, like most third sector organisations we run on time-limited grants and short-term funding meaning that we have a constant battle to maintain existing service levels let alone develop the service further.

“Our core service is funded by a grant from Shetland Charitable Trust and we are grateful that this has been confirmed to the end of March 2020.

“Our main worry in terms of funding for the next financial year is how to source finance for work currently carried out under Lottery funds which are about to end.

“This includes our debt advice provision and outreach work advising vulnerable people and those living in the more remote parts of Shetland.

“The majority of other bureaux, including the western isles and Orkney, receive funding for their specialist debt work from their local authority.

“We would be happy to meet with the charitable trust to discuss any way in which our core funding arrangements could be extended so as to ensure something as fundamental to us as debt advice provision can be included.”