AN advice service is showing its quality after helping claim more than £1.5m of benefits for South Tyneside residents with money worries.
Boldon Lane Neighbourhood Advice Centre received a glowing report in a recent audit of its work.
In the past year, the team, made up of two full-time advisers and two part-time administration workers, has helped rake in £1,590,336 in employment, unemployment and disability benefits for 106 clients.
It has also dealt with 15,207 enquiries and managed between £400,00 and £500,000 of client debt.
An audit report by the Community Legal Service (CLS) congratulated the centre for achieving a “high level” of compliance demonstrated during the process, ensuring the service kept its CLS Quality Mark.
The report added: “The organisation is run very effectively, with fully-documented procedures underpinning a highly-professional approach to the delivery of advice services.
“Files are properly managed and care is taken to ensure confidentiality is maintained for clients.”
Advice worker Neil Clyde said: “The feedback is very positive and has given us a real boost.
“We sit in here five days a week and are seeing around 2,000 clients a year and fielding phone calls. We are constantly on the go all of the time.
“So to have someone come in and look at what we are doing objectively and give such feedback is a boost.”
The advice centre was set up in 1984 in response to unemployment problems generated by factory, shipyard and pit closures.
Advice is offered on welfare benefits, including tribunal representations, benefit checks and help with filling out forms.
The centre at West Harton Action Station in Boldon Lane, South Shields, covers the Biddick Hall, All Saints, Tyne Dock, Whiteleas and Simonside areas, although they also see clients from other borough areas.
Advice worker Susan Cooke said: “We are dealing with people who have a lot of debt, people losing their jobs and seeing a reduction in their household income but with their outgoings staying the same.”
The work of the service has been praised by the three Biddick Hall and All Saints councillors, Tom Piggot, Anne Walsh and Olive Punchion.
Coun Walsh said: “They are pushed to their limits, but they continue to give a first-class service.”
The centre can be contacted on 454 3924.