BOSSES at the cash-strapped Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) in Sutton have been handed a £90,000 Government grant which could be used to set up a telephone advice line.
Earlier this year, Chad reported that the CAB was forced to cut its outreach service and reduce its sessions in Sutton because of funding cuts from Nottinghamshire County Council as the authority tried to balance its books.
The service also lost funding from the Big Lottery’s Fair Share scheme for outreach services in the Carsic, Leamington and New Cross areas of the town.
Now the Ashfield CAB, as well as the Beeston and Eastwood branches, has received a one-off grant to help deal with the funding cuts.
Ashfield CAB chief executive Sue Davis said that the grant would be used to investigate the feasibility of a telephone advice line and whether it would work for Ashfield.
She said: “We all know that face-to-face is an expensive model and we don’t want to lose the drop-ins.
“We have lost one day with the funding cuts and we have also lost the six outreaches - we have got to find ways of being able to help people.”
Under the pilot scheme, volunteer advisors in Ashfield - who give free, impartial advice on a range of issues such as debt and family breakdown - could help people in other areas of the county while advisors in other areas could help people in Ashfield.
The grant is funding a staff member to investigate the viability of the telephone service and there will also be an opportunity for volunteers to have their say on the new system.
Ms Davis said that the new phone service was about trying to offer ‘an alternative’ for people who have perhaps not been able to get through on the old number or if they live in an area where an outreach service has ended.
She said: “This money is to look into it and if it doesn’t work, it won’t be taken off us. We have got to test it to see how it works. If you are going to cover phone lines, you have to log on, a script comes up and we have got to make sure our equipment links through to county-wide equipment - we have got to be sure of the technology.”
Since the number of drop-in sessions were reduced, the CAB has struggled to cope with the number of people coming through the doors - a problem that has been made worse by the recession, the outreach sessions being axed and the recent run of bank holidays on a Monday which has meant more people coming on other days.
On 4th March, members of Nottinghamshire County Council voted to reduce the CAB’s handouts from £37,018 last financial year to £14,285 for 2011/12, although it was given a one-off £6,250 payment to minimise the impact of the cuts.
Ashfield District Council has continued to fund the service at the same level.
To speak to an advisor call the existing number Mansfield 557617. Alternatively, the new number is 0844 8563411. Drop-in sessions are held Monday to Wednesday between 9.30am and 12.30pm at the Sutton office on Market Street.