Eastbourne Citizen's Advice helps manage more than £1.7m of people's debts

Residents have been struggling with disability benefits, debt, and pregnancy discrimination according to Eastbourne Citizens Advice.

Wednesday, 8th November 2017, 12:06 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 3:03 am
The Citizens Advice AGM at Eastbourne Town Hall

The big issues facing people in Eastbourne were discussed at the charity’s annual general meeting at the town hall last night (Tuesday)

Manager Alan Bruzon thanked all volunteers for the ‘considerable’ work they do and said one of the main things people had been asking for help with this year were disability benefits – specifically Personal Independence Payments (PIP), and Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

He said residents have been having problems with transferring from Disability Living Allowance to PIP, and many with serious health problems had been reassessed and refused the new benefit.

Toby Brown speaking at Eastbourne Citizens Advice's AGM

Mr Bruzon said, “We are trying to do our bit to campaign for change. I was given a real reminder of the depth and quality of advice we give and the difference it makes to peoples’ lives. I’m immensely proud of all our volunteers.”

He also highlighted how Eastbourne Citizens Advice (CA) has managed more than £1.7m of debt this year.

“If you help somebody with their debts you improve their mental and physical health,” he said, “We have been able to prove the link and benefit of that work. It has shown a significant difference to people.”

Other issues the CA helped with, he said, were pregnancy discrimination, hate crime and homelessness.

Toby Brown speaking at Eastbourne Citizens Advice's AGM

Michael Frayne, who last night stepped down as chair of trustees having held the role for six years, said, “It’s amazing most people don’t realise we are actually a charity, it’s totally dependent on volunteers.

“We have a few people that are paid employees who work very hard and long hours and for that I thank you.”

He highlighted that for every £1 of funding Eastbourne CA receives, the charity delivered more than £30 in benefit to the community.

In terms of the council funding, which is the main funding for CA, he said the charity gives back £110,000 – which would mean the net cost to the local authority for Citizens Advice is £5,000.

The meeting heard the funding the council has given to CA has been frozen, so every year there is a gap in funding due to inflation. Last year’s deficit was £25,000-30,000, which was filled by the end of the year.

Mr Frayne said, “Every year we face new challenges, we have got another big hole to fill.

“I think we should all be proud of what we have achieved.”

And Toby Brown, campaigns and public affairs manager at Citizens Advice, gave a presentation on ‘Fixing Universal Credit’.

He explained he had been working to persuade the government to pause the rollout of the policy while its issues are dealt with, and said he was working to get the waiting time until payment down to four weeks.