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CAB makes a big difference

SHETLAND’s Citizens Advice Bureau is looking back at a hugely successful year that helped secure an additional £1.7 million for local clients.

On the eve of the charity’s AGM on Tuesday, local manager Karen Eunson said that during 2017/18 the bureau had worked hard to become more accessible by offering home visits to those who would otherwise not be able to attend their office for advice.

In addition, the organisation’s outreach programme in rural health centres has helped to increasable the availability of advice across the isles.

The local CAB helps people with a range of issues, from benefits and energy bills to debt and employment.

Eunson warned that the organisation’s workload is likely to grow even further as a result of Universal Credit being introduced in Shetland next month.

Chairman Gordon Mitchell said the charity had worked with clients on 7,200 issues during the twelve months to the end of March.

“In 2017/18, we achieved a total client financial gain of almost £1.7million, up from £1 million last year,” he said.

“This financial gain makes a huge difference to our clients, putting more pounds in their pockets and purses. This is especially important in Shetland where the cost of living is so much higher – 10-30 per cent higher than it is on the mainland.

“It is also important to remember that the money we have helped clients gain is not just a benefit for them as individuals but also for the wider Shetland community and economy.”

Eunson added: “We are seeing demand for our service grow, and the introduction of Full Service Universal Credit in Shetland in September 2018 is likely to increase this again.”

She paid tribute to the hard work of her team of paid staff and 17 trained volunteer advisers, who in 2017/18 donated more than 10,000 hours of work.

“I would like to take this opportunity to encourage more folk to consider volunteering with CAB. Being a CAB adviser you can get your teeth into and which makes a real difference to local people,” Eunson said.

CAB volunteer Eleanor Pottinger added that the work as a volunteer adviser was hugely rewarding.

“The work can be challenging at times, but also rewarding when you get positive feedback and can see how you have helped someone with their query,” she said.

“We have plenty of help and support from staff, other volunteer advisers, and our own information system.

“As a volunteer, this support helps me to feel part of a team who all try to make a difference in the lives of those who contact the bureau.”