Royal visitor praises CAB

CHRIS BISHOP When it started out in 1939, it was besieged with inquiries about rationing, petrol coupons and bureaucracy. Today it is besieged by people in debt - and those struggling with yet more bureaucracy.

CHRIS BISHOP

When it started out in 1939, it was besieged with inquiries about rationing, petrol coupons and bureaucracy.

Today it is besieged by people in debt - and those struggling with yet more bureaucracy.

While the issues facing its customers have changed, the Citizens Advice Bureau remains the first port of call for anyone with a problem with just about anything.

Yesterday, the Princess Royal heard how a £286,000 lottery grant was bringing new technology to its King's Lynn branch, as it prepares to move into new offices near the Tuesday Market Place.

For just over 40 years, volunteers have worked from offices in the 16th-century Thoresby College. The princess was shown around the building by CAB strategic manager Sam Nurse, before meeting staff and volunteers to talk about their work.

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Afterwards, Mrs Nurse thanked the princess, who has been patron of the CAB nationally for 17 years.

"We're very excited you're still with us and we haven't frightened you off yet," she said.

The princess said: "The branch here has been a pretty good example of longevity. Things are changing and I'm sure it will continue to support people who have problems they come for some help with."

The new centre, on St Nicholas Street, will include a telephone helpline centre as well as more space for face-to-face consultations with clients, when it opens in December.

While the lottery grant has helped the new centre get off the ground, the CAB is still appealing for £50,000 to upgrade telecoms and computer systems in the building.

Steve Wiseman, chief executive of the Norwich and District CAB, said more complicated forms for claiming benefits and tax credits had increased the workload. "There's more than ever to do and you've got social issues like debt which accounts for a third of all CAB appointments, with the average person owing £35,000," he said.

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