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Community / Another successful year for Citizens Advice Bureau

Citizens Advice Bureau manager Karen Eunson. Photo: Shetland News

THE SHETLAND public benefited to the tune of nearly £1.7 million in 2018/19 through financial support given out by the local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).

Over £1.5 million of this was secured through successful benefit applications, appeals and back payments.

The Shetland CAB advised a total of 1,724 clients over the financial year, with 367 home visits made to people unable to access the service.

The figures were included in the bureau’s annual report for 2018/19 which was presented at the organisation’s AGM on Tuesday evening.

The team advised people on a total of 6,353 issues – 57 per cent of which related to benefits.

Around 15 per cent were on issues like tax, debt and financial services, while 10 per cent were related to energy.

At the lower end, one per cent of support was for immigration, while four per cent was on employment.

Over 10,000 hours were donated by volunteers, which amounted to over £78,000 at the national living wage.

For debt clients, the average amount of money they owed was £9,525.

Client satisfaction rates were extremely high, with 94 per cent happy with the service they received.

The local CAB also continued to offer an outreach programme across Shetland, with visits to nine health centres. They were Unst, Yell, Whalsay, Hillswick, Brae, Walls, Bixter, Scalloway and Levenwick.

In 2018/19 the branch also developed a new service called Warmer Homes for Shetland, which is funded by the Climate Challenge Fund.

It supports local households to reduce their energy bills whilst also cutting their carbon emissions through home energy advice visits, drop-in clinics and community engagement activities.

Over the year the CAB received £292,735 in grant income – a rise of over £70,000 on the previous year. Expenditure on charitable activities, however, rose from £291,700 to £385,421.

The local branch is funded by the European Social Fund, Climate Challenge Fund, Citizens Advice Scotland, Shetland Charitable Trust and Shetland Islands Council.

In a joint statement, chairman Gordon G Mitchell and manager Karen Eunson said: “We are proud that our volunteers and paid staff have continued to make such a huge positive difference to people’s lives.

“Once again, good advice has resulted in almost £1.7 million coming in to the pockets of people in Shetland – most of this in terms of benefits for people with health problems and disabilities, and also for vulnerable elderly people.”

The report also paid tribute to volunteer Helen Wilson from Aith, who received a special recognition award at the Scottish CAB’s 80th anniversary conference earlier this year.

She was nominated as volunteer of the year in recognition of her skills and knowledge as an adviser, and, in particular, her strengths in the complex and ever-changing field of benefits and her excellent rapport with clients.