Centre inundated with calls for help

Yvonne Kurvits, the Citizens Advice Bureau's general service manager.
Yvonne Kurvits, the Citizens Advice Bureau's general service manager.

An organisation that helps people with advice is sending out an SOS for help – in the form of needing more volunteers.

For the Citizens Advice Bureau in East Riding, including Pocklington, is being inundated with calls for help – and the situation is likely to become even more challenging for both advisers and those seeking help.

Increasingly those claiming benefits are having to do it online – but many people either do not have easy access to technology or, especially if they are older, are worried about using it and possibly making a mistake.

Although the benefits system is not the only challenge facing the CAB it does account for about 38% of the calls made to the organisation.

“It is our biggest issue. A lot of people find the application forms quite daunting and need help so they come to us for advice,” said Yvonne Kurvits, the general service manager for East Riding which includes the bureau in Pocklington.

As well as benefits the organisation’s calls amount to around 13% for debts, a similar amount regarding housing, 11% regarding relationships, 10% in respect of employment and 4% each for consumer and legal issues.

“In terms of benefits the proportion is high because there has been an increase since the new welfare rules were introduced in 2013,” said Mrs Kurvits.

She added: “We are going to see even more changes with the introduction of the universal credit system.”

She envisages the changes will cause more problems for some people because it means they will have to budget their money over a four-week period instead of fortnightly.

Housing benefit will also be paid directly to the payee so they will be responsible for ensuring it is then handed over to the landlord.

“So the budgetary aspect will be quite an issue for some of our clients,” said Mrs Kurvits, adding that caps on other benefits will also affect those concerned.

The organisation deals with around 7,000 calls a year in the East Riding alone – nearly 30 calls a working day.

“It has been increasing year on year so we really do rely on volunteers to help us,” she added.

“Being able to provide the help needed depends on the volunteers we have and that has a direct consequence on the amount of people we can help.”

CAB can offer a comprehensive training system and there is a variety of roles.

“We have many different levels and many different roles all of which are available so people can match their skills to a voluntary role within the bureau,” she said.

One key issue that the East Riding CAB is addressing is how to help clients when so much work and applications are now having to be done more and more online.

“Not all of our clients are computer literate so it is something we have got to take into account along with other similar providers.”

The main bureaux in key towns such as Bridlington, Beverley and Goole are open on a certain number of days and at varying times while the “outreach” bureau in Pocklington, at the Methodist Church, on Chapmangate, is open on Tuesday mornings between 9.30am and 12.30pm, but anyone wanting an appointment there needs to ring the Goole office. “The system is quite complicated for many people so it is vital that a service like ours can be maintained,” said Mrs Kurvits, whose organisation’s income comes from a variety of sources including donations.