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Dealing with the cost of living: CABs help 23,000 struggling families

This news post is 10 months old

"They really helped my income and I am now less stressed and can sleep again.”

The Citizens Advice network in Scotland helped more than 23,000 families at risk from poverty in the past year, new data reveals. 

The Scottish Government has identified several groups particularly vulnerable to child poverty, including single-parent families, families with an adult or child with a health condition/disability, families with a child under one year old, minority ethnic families, larger families (defined as having three or more children), and families where the mother is under 25 years old.

Between August 2022 and July 2023, the CAB network helped 23,094 unique families in this group, an increase from 22,768 the previous year. 

Nationally, clients from these priority groups account for 14%, or around one in seven, clients that CABs deal with.  These families are also more likely to seek support with housing and utilities than they were a year ago.

One mother helped by a CAB talked about the results she got, but also how the CAB made her feel supported and eased her stress and anxiety: “I stopped receiving my housing benefit. I have two children with disabilities, so this was really stressful and causing me to lose sleep. I phoned up the CAB and they were able to help me appeal this decision. The CAB were by my side throughout this process and were successful in getting my housing benefit back. The CAB also told me to apply for the Scottish Welfare Fund which they helped me do. This has really helped my income and I am now less stressed and can sleep again.”

Last year CABs unlocked £142 million for people through things like social security payments, employment entitlements and other benefits in kind. On average people who saw a gain where around £3,700 better off. 

Citizens Advice Scotland chief executive Derek Mitchell said: “Poverty is an unacceptable scar on our communities and holds people back. Morally policy makers shouldn’t walk by on the other side while so many of our fellow citizens suffer. Lifting more people out of poverty would see our economy and our public services benefit. 

“CABs can play a key role in helping deliver a Scotland free from poverty. Around one in seven clients CABs currently deal with are from groups identified as being more at risk from poverty. In total the network helped 23,000 families from these groups last year.

“That’s an increase on last year, and what we are seeing is some changes in the issues they are seeking help with. There’s more demand for advice on energy – no surprise given the cost of living crisis – but also increased demand for housing advice. 

“Even during this cost of living crisis, it can be difficult for people to admit to themselves that they are struggling to keep their heads above water. CAB advisers get that. They don’t judge, they just help.  

“It is welcome that the Scottish Government have a target of reducing poverty. For that to happen frontline services like CABs need more support. Demand is high, cases are often more complex, and the clients are often at crisis point. 

“We can help people through their challenges, but we could help so much more with better and more secure funding.”