"CAB services axed due to cash shortfall Jennifer Hall
Published on Thursday 19 April 2012 07:00
Berwick Citizens Advice Bureau has become the latest victim of funding cuts to the voluntary sector and is having to scale down its operations because of a serious financial shortfall.
As a result, the drop-in service at its Tweed Street office in Berwick will be reduced from four days to three days a week and the outreach service centres in Belford, Seahouses and Wooler are to close.
It will mean an end to the county-wide Macmillan Welfare Benefit Service for people affected by cancer, while two members of staff are to be made redundant.
Although Northumberland County Council has been able to maintain its funding for the CAB - for now - a reduction in service contract funding and time limited funding such as the ending of the Big Lottery funding for the outreach advice sessions, has left the CAB short of cash.
Jennifer Hall, CAB bureau manager in Berwick, said: “Funding is becoming harder and harder to find. The bureau delivers a core service, mostly through dedicated volunteers, and a range of projects funded by charitable trusts, legal aid, national contracts and other funders such as the Big Lottery.
“These projects contribute to the running costs of the bureau as well as providing specific advice and casework services. Northumberland County Council provides valuable funding for the core service, but only for part of it. The remainder is mostly unfunded this year.”
As funds dry up across the voluntary sector, the CAB has found itself in competition with scores of other service providers bidding for cash from an ever-smaller pot.
“We have submitted many funding applications during the past two years,” revealed Jennifer, “but most have been unsuccessful as we are in competition with many other charities and good causes. CAB advice services aren’t seen as popular as charities helping animals, health conditions or specific community groups.
“We have received support from some parish councils and smaller grant givers but we still face a deficit for the coming year.”
The CAB have fought to keep services going over the past two years by using reserves, but trustees have now had to make two salaried members of staff redundant as there is no realistic prospect of funding levels recovering in the short to medium-term.
“This perhaps should not surprise us as similar problems have been facing many of our clients for the past three years,” said Jennifer.
The CAB is continuing the search for funding but warned it may be many months before the current level of service can be replaced, if ever.
It hopes that a temporary reduced service might be available in Seahouses under different funding but there are no similar options for Belford and Wooler.
“The bureau isn’t immune to hard times,” said Jennifer. “However this is coming at a time when we are facing the largest shake up of the welfare system in years, affordable housing is becoming nearly impossible to find locally, we are seeing more people without any money for food or electricity and we are already struggling to meet the demand for our services.” ..................."