Hartlepool Citizens Advice team bring Â£3million in benefits to town
Hartlepool's flagship advice service says it has helped bring almost Â£3million into the local economy - despite being overwhelmed at times with calls for help.
Hartlepool Citizens Advice Bureau says demand for its services is increasing with welfare benefits and personal debt - totalling £11.5 million - being the biggest issues they have dealt with.
Managers say staff are facing huge challenges in coping with this demand.
Its annual report for activity between April 2017-2018 shows it dealt with 5,100 clients and conducted more than 18,000 client interviews.
It also says has helped people claim almost £3million of benefits they were entitled to.
The Hartlepool service says the introduction of the government’s controversial Universal Credit, which can see claimants waiting several weeks for their first payment, has been a “massive challenge” due to the level of requests for help.
Manager Joe Michna said: “What a challenging year that was. The demand for our services particularity in the areas of personal debt and welfare benefits is at times overwhelming us.
“We have limited resources but try and go the extra mile to help and assist clients.
“The introduction of Universal Credit has been a massive challenge but we have helped a very large number of clients with their claims and with the problems they have faced in claiming this new benefit.
“In the area of personal debt, we have helped over a 1,000 clients with debt problems and the combined total debt of these clients was over £11.5 million.”
Hartlepool Citizens Advice Bureau also advised and helped 215 people with appeals to benefit tribunals, assisted 51 clients with appeals to employment tribunals and 155 with housing possession eviction proceedings.
Residents from all wards in Hartlepool accessed the CAB during the year.
People from Victoria and Manor House wards represented the highest client base at 15% each, followed by Burn Valley at 14%.
Requests for help with employment law including unfair dismissal, discrimination and wage disputes has been another area of high demand.
The CAB, in Park Road, works in partnership with organisations including Pension Wise, Wise Financial Consulting, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Step Forward Tees Valley, TMJ Legal Services and Hartlepool Homeless Forum.
Mr Michna praised Hartlepool CAB’s debt advice team including Ann Brown who has been with the organisation for over 20 years.
She is currently off due to illness and Mr Michna wished her a speedy recovery.