Norfolk Citizens Advice Bureau preparing for Norfolk roll-out of universal credit benefit
- Credit: SOPHIE WYLLIE
A voluntary support service helping people in crisis is making sure it is 'resilient' ahead of a major roll-out of the Universal Credit benefit payments across Norfolk.
Norfolk Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), as well as CAB branches in Norwich, Attleborough, Fakenham, Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn, North Walsham and Wymondham, has seen an increase in people seeking help with claiming benefits and tax credits compared to this time this year.
Steve Cheshire, chief executive officer for Norfolk CAB, said the roll-out of Universal Credit in Yarmouth, which started in April last year, was causing delays as long as nine weeks for benefit payments.
The system will be implemented across the rest of the county over the next 18 months.
Mr Cheshire said: 'We have to make sure our volunteers are trained. It has been a steep learning curve in Yarmouth. It is one we will learn from and make sure our areas are more resilient.'
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He added roles including a welfare specialist at the North Walsham bureau will be a 'great asset' for the organisation, which is linking up with Job Centres.
Other groups of people the CAB are seeing more frequently are disabled people, individuals with mental health issues and the homeless.
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Norfolk CAB has seen a 25pc increase in people needing support with Personal Independence Payments - a benefit for adults with a long term illness or disability.
Mr Cheshire said the service as a whole was dealing with larger problems, rather than smaller issues.
But despite that it has not received an increase in funding from Norfolk County Council.
'For every £1 invested, there is a £27 benefit for the county. To maintain that we need our core service.'
This year the council gave £363,836 to CAB county services.
Mr Cheshire added the service, run by 200 volunteers and 20 staff, had made £150,000 worth of 'efficiency' savings over the past five years by changing IT systems, reducing staff and introducing county-wide experts.
But he said: 'The quality of advice has increased over the same time. The role of the CAB is to help people through difficult times.'