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Cash for CAS as unprecedented demand takes its toll

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Welfare reform has put unprecedented pressure on Citizens Advice Scotland services - leading to cash injection

A leading advice charity is to get £1.5 million extra from the Scottish Government because of unprecedented pressure being placed on its services.

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) will receive the cash next year to alleviate Westminster’s welfare reform changes, social justice secretary Alex Neil confirmed.

The Scottish Government funding comes on top of £2.5m it has allocated to support CAS’s welfare reform mitigation fund between 2013-2015.

The additional £1.5m will allow CAS to employ more staff, operate longer opening hours, provide more training for advisers and recruit more volunteers across the 200 citizen's advice bureau (CAB) service points in operation across Scotland.

CAS chief executive Margaret Lynch said: “This funding means that CAB are helping get money into the purses and pockets of our citizens, supporting people to navigate their way through a complicated benefits system, and signpost them to other much needed services such as foodbanks.

CAB advice has never been so needed and people know they can depend on us for support at their time of need - Margaret Lynch

“Bureaux see complicated cases and can be frustrated by maladministration, delays to benefits and the sanctioning of benefits which lead to cases of destitution and desperation.

“CAB advice has never been so needed and people know they can depend on us for support at their time of need.”

According to CAS, in the first year over 17,500 people were helped with over 55,000 issues. The service now sees an additional 6,000 clients every three months thanks to Scottish Government funding.

The top three areas which clients have requested help with have been benefits, debt and tax issues.

However, CAB advisers are able to provide support on a wide range of other issues.

The Scottish Government has set aside £104m in next year’s budget to tackle poverty and inequalities including £33m to the Scottish Welfare Fund.

Alex Neil said: “Westminster’s programme of austerity is placing intolerable strain on Scottish families and individuals. Many feel stressed, isolated and at their wits end.

“That is why supporting the provision of advice services is a central plank of the Scottish Government’s approach to welfare reform mitigation.

“Scottish citizens bureaux staff are dealing with an increased volume of calls with thousands of people seeking advice as UK government welfare reform changes hit the most vulnerable.

“CAB have an unequalled track record of delivering free expert, impartial advice and its national network of advice centres will ensure that this funding reaches every corner of Scotland.

“To create a more prosperous and fairer society in Scotland, full responsibility over welfare policy is the only way for us to properly tackle poverty.”