Hucknall is still plagued by debt and benefit woes

CASH-strapped residents of Hucknall and Ashfield continue to be plagued by money troubles, with thousands turning to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) for help.

The latest figures show that staff and volunteers at the Ashfield CAB branch, which is based in Sutton but is open to advice-seekers from Hucknall, helped 3,274 clients deal with 11,530 problems from April 2011 to March 2012.

Of those, a total of 4,106 cases involved debt and 3,654 cases centred on benefit problems which, when combined, accounted for 67% of the workload.

The statistics show a decrease compared to the previous financial year when the bureau dealt with 6,984 cases of debt and 6,320 cases of benefits issues.

But Ashfield CAB chief executive Sue Davis says this is not because problems are reducing. Instead it is because there are fewer CAB services available because of funding cuts.

There is now no CAB service in Hucknall. An outreach drop-in initiative at the Under One Roof centre on Vine Terrace was axed a year ago and pilot advice sessions at the Torkard Hill Medical Centre on Farleys Lane ran out of money.

Now Hucknall residents have to go to Sutton or into Nottingham city centre.

Sue said: “When all the funding cuts were first talked about, we said there would be an improvement and that people would think the problems had gone away.

“It’s extremely frustrating. We know that demand is outstripping our resources.

“We had six outreach sessions a year ago. We were open on four mornings and we had three specialist debt caseworkers. Now we are down to three mornings and no outreaches.

“We also had housing-related debt sessions at Ashfield District Council but they are finishing at the end of next month.

“There’s not a lot we can do. We are constantly trying to outline to people that the issues are still there and that people still need help.”

In a bid to fill the gap, the Ashfield CAB branch teamed up with other bureaux in Mansfield, Ollerton and Bassetlaw to offer a telephone advice line, which is manned by volunteers.

The line is available Mondays to Fridays from 10 am to 2 pm on 08448 563411. The drop-in sessions take place at the Sutton branch from Mondays to Wednesdays between 9.30 am and 12.30 pm.