Busy time for advice bureau

Penicuik Citizens Advice Bureau remains the busiest CAB office in the Lothians.

In the 2010/11 annual report, bureau manager Sue Peart said that staff continued to deal with the same high level workload although the types of enquiries were becoming increasingly complex.

“Undoubtedly, in the difficult economic times ahead, the CAB will continue to play a vital role for the residents of Midlothian,” she said.

“Despite the cut in funding, the bureau has managed to sustain the same level of service, and this increase in demand has not impacted on the quality of the service, as the Penicuik CAB has achieved 100 per cent in its last two independent quality of service audits, and user surveys were 100 per cent positive.”

Sue paid tribute to bureau staff: “This achievement has not been without cost, as the staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to maintain the service by working through their lunch hours and staying late.”

During 2010/11, the bureau provided more than 8000 advice sessions and dealt with more than 2600 telephone enquiries. Almost 90 home visits were funded by the Fairer Scotland Fund.

Staff and volunteers dealt with more than 19,000 enquiries, with debt accounting for 42 per cent of the workload. A quarter of the cases coming before Penicuik CAB related to benefit issues including Tax Credits and National Insurance queries. Employment matters accounted for a fifth of enquiries.

More than 39 per cent of enquiries were made in person, almost 33 per cent by phone and 25 per cent by letter. Fax and email accounted for less than 3.5 per cent.

Penicuik continued to be the busiest CAB office, with Dalkeith recording 3481 enquiries and Haddington 6794 queries. The average for an Edinburgh bureau is 5059.

Sue said advisors had obtained £3.5 million in financial gain for clients, which represented a return of £32 to the community for every £1 of Midlothian Council’s core funding.

In the last year, the Penicuik branch has trained 11 new volunteers.