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Single mother-of-three at 'real risk' of homelessness had thousands in debt cleared by councils

PUBLISHED: 13:07 28 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:07 28 November 2019

A single mother at real risk of homelessness had thousands in debt paid off by two Norfolk councils after a charity stepped in to prevent her children being taken into care. Pictured, Norfolk Citizens Advice. Photo: ANTONY KELLY

A single mother at real risk of homelessness had thousands in debt paid off by two Norfolk councils after a charity stepped in to prevent her children being taken into care. Pictured, Norfolk Citizens Advice. Photo: ANTONY KELLY

A single mother at "real risk" of homelessness had thousands in debt paid off by two Norfolk councils after a charity stepped in to prevent her children being taken into care, a council heard.

Dr Melanie Jones, chief executive for Citizens Advice Diss, Thetford and District. Photo: CABDr Melanie Jones, chief executive for Citizens Advice Diss, Thetford and District. Photo: CAB

The woman, who was not identified due to confidentiality, was facing £4,000 in rent arrears and problems with one of her children not attending school, the councillors were told.

Dr Melanie Jones, from the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), told a group of South Norfolk councillors: "We had a single mother with three children.

"There were problems at home, problems with one of the children not attending school. There was a real risk of homelessness and £4,000 in rent arrears."

The charity, district and county councils worked together to clear the arrears and support the family - with each council giving £2,000.

Dr Jones, chief executive of Diss, Thetford and District CAB, added: "We managed to prevent the children being taken into care.

"The cost of that would have been £250,000 for the local authority per child per year.

"There would have been the impact on the children of being separated.

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"We do work with councils to broker agreements which do save considerable amounts of money in the long term."

Dr Jones shared the woman's story, which she said was not a South Norfolk case study, with a meeting of the South Norfolk council scrutiny committee on Wednesday, November 27, where councillors reviewed debt advice provision across the district.

Yvonne Bendle, cabinet member for health, housing and wellbeing, said: "We're getting more and more applicants that do need help with debt."

And Liam Pickering, early help hub manager, added: "We need to ensure services meet demand."

Janet John, chief executive of North East Suffolk CAB , told councillors: "It's very difficult for someone with a debt problem to pluck up the courage to seek help.

"We are there on that day when that person wakes up and thinks 'I can't live with this any more'.

"They want it to be just you and them because they don't want to face the shame."

Councillors unanimously agreed to seek out ways to work more closely with the CAB to offer debt advice to district residents.

- Contact CAB Norfolk for free, impartial and accredited advice by calling 03444 111 444 or visiting their website which has information about drop-in locations across Norfolk.

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