Citizens Advice Service benefits from grant funding

Cumbria Housing Partners Fund has given £5,000 to support the vital work of the Citizens Advice (CAB) service in Allerdale and Copeland to offer a Benefits Advice project to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable residents living in properties managed by the housing associations which are part of the consortium.

There is a real need for free, independent and impartial advice throughout West Cumbria and the thousands of people that use the Citizens Advice service in Allerdale and Copeland every year are proof of that. In 2016/17 they advised on over 8,700 different issues relating to benefits, tax credits and universal credit. Both offices report an increase in the number of clients seeking assistance with complex issues requiring longer term and more specialist advice.

Shelley Hewitson, Chief Officer for Citizens Advice Copeland says “Our Benefits Advice Project in West Cumbria supports people living in Copeland and Allerdale at difficult times in their lives. The aim of Universal Credit is to simplify the benefit system, however the implementation of the new system is leaving hundreds of people across West Cumbria without the means to make ends meet. Every day we have people visiting our offices who are in need of advice and support to navigate the new benefits system.

Thanks to this funding we are able to provide income maximisation checks and assist clients to make applications for any applicable benefit. We can also challenge benefit decisions at the mandatory reconsideration stage. By providing them with the support they need to deal with the welfare benefit issues they face, we help them to plan and move forward with their lives.

John Clasper, Chair of Cumbria Housing Partners says “We are very pleased to be able to support the CAB in this project. When people need to apply for benefits there is often a lot going on in their lives and the process can often be confusing. Making an application for Universal Credit can seem overwhelming and it is hard for people to know who to turn to. Having a free and impartial Benefits Advice Service provides a helping hand and support for people at this important time.

Annalee Holliday, Grants & Donor Services Officer for Cumbria Community Foundation, said: “Our grants fund charitable projects which support the most vulnerable members of our communities; this is at the heart of what we do. It is clear that the work of Citizens Advice, ranging from increasing incomes to helping reduce utility costs, is making a real difference to people who are experiencing financial hardship, and give them a better quality of life.