Celebration time for Denny CAB volunteers

Volunteers from Denny and Dunipace CAB with Michael Matheson MSP (front) and CAB convenor Margaret Gray (front, right), at the 40th anniversary reception.
Volunteers from Denny and Dunipace CAB with Michael Matheson MSP (front) and CAB convenor Margaret Gray (front, right), at the 40th anniversary reception.

For literally decades a hard-working band of volunteers have been busily solving problems and giving solid advice to people in Denny and Dunipace.

There has been little overt recognition of the efforts of local Citizens Advice Bureau volunteers until now, despite the thousands who have benefited from their efforts over the years.

But this month’s 40th anniversary was the cue for a special Holyrood reception hosted by Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson (who is Justice Minister) - and a fascinating trip down memory lane.

Denny and Dunipace CAB convener Margaret Gray, playing down her own role, highlights the fact that four volunteers in particular have collectively clocked up 85 years service.

Multiply that by the number of cases these stalwarts have dealt with - and then reflect that these are just the longest-serving - and it is possible to get some idea of the scale of achievement.

Margaret, meanwhile, began as a volunteer in Grangemouth, and has 17 years - and a vast historic case load - to her credit.

She says she is delighted by the recognition for her colleagues implicit in the Scottish Parliament function, and proud of what their accomplishment represents.

“Things have certainly changed over the years,” she says, “and we are now dealing with problems that maybe weren’t such an important issue years ago - and there’s no doubt CAB is needed as much now as ever.”

Universal Credit is one looming threat, as its local roll-out in the new year will come hard on the heels of Christmas.

Debt is also an ever-present problem, but CAB covers a bewildering variety of rights issues which only a relative few - like Margaret - are experienced enough to deal with in detail.

The total amount of money that the CAB advisers have been able to acquire for their clients in lost wages, compensation, unclaimed benefits etc was £124,407 in 1997/8 and £1,306,477 in 2016/17 - and since 1997 totals more than £10million.

Margaret said: “To say we are ‘celebrating’ our anniversary would be the wrong word.

“After all, we deal every day with people who are very vulnerable, and struggling with very difficult situations, like debt, redundancy, housing worries, problems at work, etc.

“Often they are very depressed and their problem is impacting on their family relationship or their job. We regularly see people who are in tears, or even suicidal with worry.

“But it is very satisfying to be able to help such people, and turn their lives around. And we are proud that we have achieved a great deal over the decades, expanding our service considerably to meet the growing demand.

“The number of cases we’ve dealt with is testament to the fact that quality advice services are essential.

“Where would all those people have gone if they hadn’t been able to come here?”

She added: “I know that local people value what we do and support us, because they regularly tell us and we appreciate their goodwill.

“What we do here is quite literally change people’s lives, and that would not be possible without those who give their time and energy to the service.

“Hopefully we will be here for the next 40 years – at least.”

Besides volunteers guests at Michael Matheson’s Holyrood reception included former Denny and Dunipace chairman Ken Donald, Grangemouth and Bo’ness CAB chairman Tom Lambie, and local councillors Paul Garner and Fiona Collie.