Axe falls on community advice services

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ADVICE services for north Northumberland residents are the latest victim of funding cuts to the voluntary sector.

Berwick’s Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is having to scale down its operations, resulting in the closure of the outreach service centres in Belford, Seahouses and Wooler.

Although Northumberland County Council has been able to maintain its funding for the CAB for now, a reduction in certain streams, such as the end of the Big Lottery funding for the outreach advice sessions, has left the CAB short of cash.

Bureau manager Jennifer Hall said: “Funding is becoming harder and harder to find. Northumberland County Council provides valuable funding for the core service, but only for part of it. The remainder is mostly unfunded this year.

“We have submitted many funding applications during the past two years, 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 bureau isn’t immune to hard times. 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.”

A temporary reduced service might be available in Seahouses under different funding but there are no similar options for Belford and Wooler.

But Alnwick CAB will still be providing an outreach programme in Seahouses.

The news was welcomed by members of North Sunderland Parish Council on Monday night.

Coun Tom Orrin said: “I’m pleased to hear they are going to keep ours going in Seahouses because it’s a very well-used service.”