A team of people helping those in West Norfolk struggling to come to terms with debt and unemployment are expecting the problem to get worse before it gets better.

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The Regenerate West Norfolk Project

The project was set-up in January 2011 with the aim of alleviating poverty in the area.

By December 2011 the project had seen 642 people with 504 of them identifying a combined total of £23,911 extra income a week. They also received combined one-off payments of £60,606.

Some 92 people had received training in money matters.

One client with mental health problems and learning difficulties was told she owned more than £10,000 which was written off for her after intervention by project staff.

The project is funded through the Big Lottery Fund until January 2015.

Clients can be seen at: St Nicholas Street, Lynn; SureStart Centre, Avenue Road, Hunstanton; SureStart Centre, Snape Lane, Downham Market; SureStart Centre, Churchgate Way, Terrington St Clement; St Augustine’s Centre, North Lynn; Centre Point, Fairstead and the parish council offices in Pound Lane, Heacham.

As more people come to terms with losing their jobs and their ‘safety net’ of cash runs out, they are turning to the Citizens Advice Bureau for help from the Regenerate West Norfolk Project, which started a year ago.

More than 600 people have already been helped and the team is expecting the figure to rise with no real sign of an economic recovery on the horizon.

The project was established in January 2011 with money from the National Lottery and is designed specifically to alleviate poverty in West Norfolk. It is funded until January 2015, but the team is looking for volunteer helpers to share the increasing workload.

The team of advisors work from the Lynn office of the CAB and via outreach centres at Downham Market, Hunstanton, Terrington St Clement, Heacham, North Lynn and Fairstead.

“We are hoping to recruit volunteers to help us with the project. They could be doing a range of things, including things like financial capability - and we would really like a total of six people to come on board,” said Richie Wilkin, welfare and benefits advisor.

“We are seeing people who have never had to deal with applying for benefits before and it can be overwhelming for them,” he said.

Mr Wilkie works with Mark Sullman, who specialises in personal finance; Mandy Stratton, life skills and Jodie Taylor, administration.

The west of Norfolk includes areas with some of the worst deprivation levels in the county, and the CAB team works with a variety of agencies, including the Princes Trust, Purfleet Trust and KLARS to help as many people as it can.

“It can be difficult in this area. People have to travel to get anything and some of the employment is very seasonal,” said Mr Wilkin.

Changes in rules and regulations, specially around disability benefits, are also having an effect on households and their budgets he said.

Many people contacting the CAB for help are finding themselves in contact with the benefits system for the first time and often find it easier to discuss issues with the bureau rather than ‘state’ organisations.

“It is a broad spectrum of people that we see and we are seeing a lot more who have never had to deal with the system at all,” said Mr Richie.

If anyone would like to volunteer, call into the Lynn office on St Nicholas Street between 10am and 2pm Tuesday to Thursday.

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