Citizens’ advice service secured

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A CONTRACT to deliver a new money advice and welfare advisory service has been awarded by Scottish Borders Council to a newly-formed consortium of the Borders Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB).

It takes effect from April 1 and remains in place for three years with an option to extend.

The new service will provide impartial, free and confidential advice, primarily relating to debt and money issues, welfare benefits, tax credits and housing. Its aims include reducing the number of households in the region currently in debt, or at risk of being in debt, and improving access to affordable and manageable financial services to help Borderers manage their money efficiently.

The council says it will also provide improved access to information and advice to help residents maximise income, employment and sustain tenancies.

Working alongside the new provision will be the local authority’s welfare benefits service, focusing its activity on more complex welfare benefit cases to ensure that the needs of vulnerable people are protected and supported.

Speaking on behalf of the consortium, George Russell, chairman of the Borders group of CABs, said: “Borders residents have had access to our service for over 40 years which has helped them deal with and resolve a wide range of personal and financial problems. In this difficult economic climate it is even more important that people get help to solve the complex problems they face, whenever they need it.

“The new contract means that the CAB service is secure, right across the Borders for the next three and possibly five years. That provides us with the means to implement changes that will improve our service to clients and a solid platform on which we can develop new and beneficial projects.”

Councillor Ron Smith, executive member for social work, added: “I am delighted that the much-respected CAB organisation has been awarded the contract, confirming its status as an efficient provider of the service and obtaining guaranteed funding for at least a three-year period, which will give confidence in further adapting and improving that service.”

The council’s social work director, Andrew Lowe, said: “The current economic conditions, together with the uncertainty provoked by the welfare reforms currently in parliament, will inevitably lead to an increased demand for this kind of support and is a good reason to ensure that the services we fund match the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities.”