Debt woes continue to hit Ashfield hard

Ashfield Citizens Advice Bureau feature pictures.''Pictured is Debt Supervisor Case Worker Debs Hughes, centre, discussing a case with a volunteer advisor with Deputy Service Manager Lee Anderson in the back ground.
Ashfield Citizens Advice Bureau feature pictures.''Pictured is Debt Supervisor Case Worker Debs Hughes, centre, discussing a case with a volunteer advisor with Deputy Service Manager Lee Anderson in the back ground.
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MONEY problems are continuing to plague residents in Ashfield, according to the latest figures from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

Staff and volunteers at the Ashfield CAB branch, on Market Street in Sutton, dealt with 4,106 debt problems in the last financial year 2011/12 followed by 3,654 cases of benefits issues - including tax credits.

The statistics show a decrease compared to the previous financial year when the bureau dealt with 6,984 cases of debt and 6,320 cases of benefits issues.

Issues surrounding debt and benefits came well ahead of other problems seen by volunteers, which were employment (776), housing (616), relationship and family (505) and legal (351) - and these statistics too, are lower than those of the previous year.

But Ashfield CAB chief executive Sue Davis has warned that the drop is not because people now have fewer problems.

She said: “When all the funding cuts were first talked about we said that there would be an improvement and that people would think the problems have gone away.

“It’s extremely frustrating - we know that demand is out-stripping our resources.”

Last year, Ashfield CAB lost funding from Nottinghamshire County Council and the cuts meant that the bureau had to reduce its sessions, including its outreach surgeries in other parts of Ashfield.

Ms Davis said: “We had six outreach sessions a year ago, we were open on four mornings and we had three specialist debt caseworkers.

“Now we are down to three mornings and no outreaches.

“We also had housing-related debt sessions at Ashfield District Council but that is finishing at the end of next month.

“There’s not a lot we can do - we are constantly trying to outline to people that the issues are still there and that people still need help.

But she added: “We are grateful that Ashfield District Council has continued to fund us at the same level and it’s good that Nottinghamshire County Council has given us three years’ of funding.”

Last year, the Ashfield branch teamed up with other bureaux in Mansfield, Ollerton and Bassetlaw to offer a telephone advice line.

“We have done a lot more by phone compared to the previous year,” said Ms Davis.

The advice line, which is manned by volunteers from all four branches, means that some people can be dealt with over the phone rather than at a face-to-face appointment.

The advice line is available Monday to Friday, between 10am-2pm, on 08448563411. The drop-in sessions take place at the Sutton branch, from Monday to Wednesday between 9.30am-12.30pm.