THE figures provided at Larne Citizens Advice Bureau’s annual meeting make for impressive reading.
Over the past year enquiries have roughly doubled, as have the number of issues dealt with. The number of new clients jumped from 342 in 2010 to 819 in 2011 and the income generated rose from £150,664 to a staggering £334,108.
However, as guest speaker Sammy Wilson MP pointed out, behind the success of the statistics lie some very human stories.
“These are the stories of the people who come in when they can’t deal with their heating bills, can’t afford to buy their youngsters shoes or don’t know how to pay their electricity bill.
“The work carried out in CAB changes lives. It is what is behind the cold facts and figures that shows how important organisations like CAB really are,” said the Finance Minister.
Mr Wilson spoke of his “immense respect” for the CAB, the largest advice charity in Northern Ireland, which works against poverty and meets the information and advice needs of some 92,000 people across the Province each year, dealing with more than 320,000 issues across a wide range of advice categories.
“When someone does not know where to turn it makes such a difference to have people who are trained, knowledgeable and sympathetic.
“People come in very vulnerable and at the end of their tether,” said Mr Wilson.
Mr Wilson praised the work of volunteers in CAB and other organisations across the Province.
“Life in Northern Ireland could not go ahead and would be much poorer if it was not for the tens of thousands of thousands who give their time voluntarily.
“They often get little or no thanks and I do not think we give them enough recognition,” he said.
Mr Wilson suggested that Government departments need to recognise that services do not always have to be delivered through the statutory sector.
“Ministers should be looking for opportunities but it is important for organisations like CAB to sell their wares and come forward with ideas,” he said.
Earlier in the meeting, Larne CAB chairperson Jacqueline Moore outlined that the successes of the past year had to be balanced against the inadequacies of the branch’s building in Park Lodge, Smiley Park.
Manager Michele Campbell stressed that there definitely was a need in Larne.
“With a little bit of money and longer opening hours that need could be met a bit more,” she said.