The number of people seeking help and advice in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly for problems ranging from debt to benefits and pensions to housing has risen by 19% to 19,000 between 2014-15 and 2015-16.
The latest statistics are contained in Citizens Advice Cornwall’s annual report, published this week, which also shows that for every £1 invested in the organisation, £12.92 was returned in public value. The total saving to Government and local authorities (Cornwall Council and the Council of the Isles of Scilly) was £10.7 million.
The main issues that people sought advice for were debt (36%), benefits and tax credits (30%), financial services (6%), housing (5%) and employment (5%).
The large rise in demand for the charity’s services has been accompanied by an increase in the number of volunteer advisors, to 160, working in offices and outreach centres from St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly to Torpoint and Bude.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Citizens Advice Cornwall chief executive officer, Neil Colquhoun said:
“Increasing pressures on household finances, inefficiencies in the benefits system, employment issues and well-documented difficulties in the rental and housing market show the valuable services provided by Citizens Advice are needed in our area more than ever before.
“However, continued financial support from our funders, such as Cornwall Council, the Government’s Money Advice Service, Comic Relief and the Macmillan cancer charity, has helped us deliver an excellent set of results, with 90% of the people we see happy or very happy with the information they receive and 95% saying they would recommend Citizens Advice to others.”
Citizens Advice Cornwall Chair of Trustees, Sue Swift, said: “The last year has been a positive one for Citizens Advice as we continue to expand our services and the range of advice and information we provide to the public through partner organisations.”
The charity regularly helps people who are at risk of being made homeless, who are being treated unfairly by their employer, or are struggling with debt. In some cases people who have received help have challenged unfair treatment by their employer so they could stay in work, avoided being made homeless when their landlord evicted them illegally, or tackled debts that were making them feel stressed and anxious.
Two major new projects have been launched in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in the last year – provision of the Government’s Pension Wise service and supporting victims of crime with financial advice via Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner’s Victim Care Unit.
In addition to the general advice service, Citizens Advice Cornwall also provided information for parents through Cornwall’s children’s centres; for cancer patients and their families through Macmillan cancer care and for people facing problems with debt through the Government’s Money Advice Service.
Notes to Editors:
1 – For further information and to arrange interviews, please contact Wailim Wong, Citizens Advice Cornwall Communications Officer, on 01209-719226 or 07821-793823 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
2 – Citizens Advice Cornwall operates offices in Truro, Falmouth, St Austell, Bodmin, Liskeard, Saltash, Camborne, Newquay, Penzance and Bude with outreach offices in Camelford, Hayle, St Columb Major, St Ives, Torpoint and St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly.