Citizens Advice Bureaux gains £5 million in benefits for Falkirk residents

Money advice from Citizens Advice Bureaux helped Falkirk residents claim more than £5 million in benefits in 2022/23.
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CAB offers a wide range of advice which includes specialists who help people struggling financially to all of the support that they are entitled to.

A report to members of Falkirk Council’s Scrutiny Committee presented them with figures and personal stories that showed the value of the service.

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The report revealed how one man had been directed to the bureau as he was distressed about being called for jury duty and not fit to attend. The client was unable to pay £16 his GP surgery wanted to charge him for a letter confirming he was unfit.

Many volunteers give up their time to support Citizen Advice Bureaux across the district. Pic: Scott LoudenMany volunteers give up their time to support Citizen Advice Bureaux across the district. Pic: Scott Louden
Many volunteers give up their time to support Citizen Advice Bureaux across the district. Pic: Scott Louden

The bureau contacted the court to ask for an excusal, which was accepted. The court was also keen to know which GP surgery was involved as it is illegal to charge for medical letters for this purpose.

The CAB advisor, realising that the client was obviously short of money, carried out a full benefits check that revealed he was entitled to £116 more every week, leaving him £6000 a year better off.

Members heard that the council spends £309,664 every year to support CABs in Grangemouth & Bo’ness, Denny & Dunipace, and Falkirk, which is around 45 per cent of the organisation’s income.

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But for every £1 invested in CAB services by the council, more than £15 is returned to residents through increased benefits or reduced costs.

By the end of 2022/23, advice from the three CABs resulted in benefit gains of £5,054,785 for Falkirk residents.

This compares to £4,089,683 for 2021/2022, and £2,602,502 for 2020/2021.

Falkirk Council also spends £38,000 to subsidise a specialist money advice service for cancer patients, Macmillan Money Matters.

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Members heard that it achieved a £41.68 return for every £1 of Falkirk Council funding, with nearly £1.7 million of additional income secured.

Councillor Lorna Binnie asked about the value of running a separate service from the CAB and was told that the project is jointly funded by the NHS and Stirling and Clackmannanshire councils and provides very good value for money.

By giving money advice directly to patients in hospital smashed a target of 400 to actually help 505 patients in 2022/23.

Councillors were told that many of these patients were expected to die within six months so it was critical to provide quick support.

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The committee also heard that while Falkirk Council provides its own Welfare Benefit Advice and Debt Advice Service, many people continue to turn to CAB as a well-known and trusted organisation.

However, funding has not risen at all in the last few years, despite rising inflation and staff costs and CABx have already made “significant savings over recent years through service efficiencies”.

Sally Buchanan, Fairer Falkirk manager, told members that helping people maximise their incomes is more vital than ever as the cost of living crisis continues.

She said: “The need for this support is greater now than it has been for many years.

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“Inflation has dropped recently but this doesn’t mean that prices are coming down – it simply means that they are rising at a slower rate then they were a few months ago.

“The impact of the rising prices is felt most by those on the lowest incomes who spend a greater proportion of their income on essentials such as food and fuel.”