CAB helps locals claw back over £1.125m in benefits

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Larne Citizens’ Advice Bureau helped clients access an incredible £1,125,000 million in unclaimed benefits in just six months, it has been revealed.

The charity, based at Victoria Road in the town, dealt with 2,385 queries between April and September, 2013.

The impressive statistics demonstrate that the demand for the service provided by the bureau has never been stronger.

Part of the reason for the continued success of the Larne CAB is down to improved accessibility of the service, coupled with the development and experience of its five full-time staff, who work 30 hours each week.

While it once had to cope with understaffing and substandard facilities, Larne CAB has undergone a major resurgence in recent years and now offers a full-time service from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. The bureau also provides a telephone advice line five days a week.

And on another bright note, Larne Borough Council has agreed to provide financial backing of £45,000 to the local CAB branch for the period April, 2014 to March, 2015. This is the forth year in a row the local authority has pledged this amount of funding to the bureau.

However, what is not clear at this point is how the funding arrangements will be dealt with next year, when Larne, Ballymena and Carrickfergus councils will combine to form the new Mid and East Antrim super-council.

The amalgamation of the three local authorities will also see the three bureaus in each area merge into a single entity.

And with the forthcoming merger, Larne CAB is working closely with its neighbouring bureaus to make the transition to a single bureau as smooth as possible.

In its latest report to the council Council, the local CAB branch stated: “We now share working practices and have merged our database to allow clients to be seen throughout the three boroughs. We are currently working towards sharing a single telephone number for telephone advice.

“Each bureau management committee is attending each other’s meetings and are working very closely towards a merger of the three bureaus.”