Guest Article: Challenging Poverty & Clackmannanshire Citizens Advice Bureau

This year, as part of Challenge Poverty Week, we have decided to highlight the local third sector organisations that are working across Clackmannanshire to tackle issues around poverty. On day 5 of Challenge Poverty Week 2020, we are spotlighting the work of Clackmannanshire’s Citizens Advice Bureau, and the role that they play in supporting the community.

Article originally published on the Clackmannanshire Citizens Advice Bureau

Challenging Poverty & Clackmannanshire Citizens Advice Bureau

As part of Challenge Poverty Week 2020, we look at how our service is challenging poverty in Clackmannanshire. For more information on Challenge Poverty Week: https://www.challengepoverty.net/.

Poverty and Citizens Advice Bureaux

In Scotland, 1 in 5 people live in poverty1 and looking more locally at Clackmannanshire, 24% of children live with the constant pressure of poverty2. All Citizens Advice Bureaux have twin aims which can help our local communities tackle poverty and its negative impact:

  1. to ensure that individuals do not suffer through ignorance of their rights and responsibilities or of the services available; or through an inability to express their needs
  1. to exercise a responsible influence on the development of social policies and services, both locally and nationally

Both aims play an equally important role in tackling poverty as well as other important aspects in our society. Today we will focus on the first aim, specifically looking into our services and how these can help to challenge the poverty we see in our local communities.

Clacks CAB: Our services and impact

In the financial year 2019/20, our client financial gain was £2.7 million. That is £2.7 million that may have gone otherwise unclaimed if not for the advice and support given. Our services do not solely focus on a client financial gain but also the management and budgeting of this increased income, ensuring a long-term positive impact.

During this period, 49% of our advice was related to benefits. Our benefits advice does not only cover claiming a particular benefit, but also the management of claims and the appeals process. Within the overall benefits category, 12% of advice was related to the Scottish Welfare Fund which helps people and families on low incomes in times of need.

Challenging poverty is not solely related to benefits advice. Debt, housing, finance and charitable support, and utilities advice collectively made up 32% of our overall advice in 2019/20. Through our holistic service, we ensure we can provide the relevant advice and support to empower each individual client, improve their financial situation where possible and their mental well-being. This could involve advice on reducing energy bills, creating a sustainable budget, helping to create manageable debt solutions and referring to food banks and other charitable support to meet that immediate need. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to challenging poverty.

Reflection on challenging poverty

Jonny Miller, our Managing Director, highlights “It is no secret that living in poverty causes devastating impacts on well-being, health, life opportunities and much more. Clacks CAB is here to provide a service that empowers our community with advice and support not only on any financial entitlements but also on budgeting, reducing household bills and much more. The aim is that this holistic approach can better challenge poverty in the long term and improve overall well-being.”

“As we are all aware, the economic and societal impact of COVID-19 affects us all. It’s also important to highlight that it will affect those who were already under the constraints of poverty as well as those who were just keeping themselves above the poverty line. Our staff and volunteers are working tirelessly to continue to ensure that our free, confidential and impartial advice is available to our local community.”

Challenging poverty is a huge hurdle for our society to overcome. We hope to always be able to provide our services, alongside our stakeholders and partners, to help towards challenging poverty by ensuring that individuals are aware of their entitlements, how to claim them and, more generally, can access the necessary information and support to positively impact their lives. Our services will always be centred on our main principles: free, confidential, impartial, independent, the client’s right to decide and empowerment.

Our services are currently operating via telephone and email and we are open Monday to Friday 9 – 4:30. Contact us on 01259 219404 or bureau@clackscab.casonline.org.uk

1 https://www.gov.scot/collections/poverty-and-income-inequality-statistics/

2 http://www.endchildpoverty.org.uk/poverty-in-your-area-2019/

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