A vital service helping people in South Tyneside with money worries has been saved thanks to a cash injection by the Big Lottery.
South Tynside Citizens Advice Bureau has been awarded £315,000 to continue its work providing support to those whose household income is being threatened - leaving them impoverished and reliant on food banks.
The cash has come just in the nick of time for the service as lack of funding had left those running the charity fearing they would have to pull the plug on its welfare benefit work at a time when Universal Credit was starting to take a hold on people’s income.
But thanks to the grant, the service - which makes up 49% of all casework handled by the Citizens Advice Bureau - has now been secured for a further three years.
The number of clients helped by workers at the CAB has risen, from 10,529 in 2014 to 12,741 in the financial year ending in 2017.
In its 50 year history the advice service has helped more than 300,000 people in South Tyneside.
Chief executive officer at the CAB, Ian Thompson said: “The Big Lottery grant is great news. We had been fearful we would have to decommission the welfare benefit work at a time when Universal Credit has hit South Tyneside, so this has really saved us.
“A total of 46% of all our work is welfare benefits, mainly around employment support allowance, PIP (Personal Independence Payment) and challenging incorrect decisions by the Department for Work and Pensions.
“If the money had not come through, it would have left a big hole in advice provision in South Tyneside.
“South Tyneside Homes does have a welfare advisor but we know they are working flat out so they wouldn’t have been able to cope with the increase in demand created if we were no longer able to provide a service.”
Mr Thompson added: “A large percentage of what we do is around welfare benefit, 46% and debt advice, 34% which makes up 80% of our workload. It’s just the sign of the times of austerity.
“We have provide support for 82% of tribunals in South Tyneside and we have won 79% of them - all that would have ended up being scrapped.
“Without this money, people would not have been able to get advice they needed to gain the household income they are legally entitled to.
“The lottery fund will help us to continue for at least three years - which is important due to the impact Universal Credit is having on the people in South Tyneside.”
For details on the CAB visit southtynecab.net
Good causes in South Tyneside are celebrating a cash windfall totalling £623,000 thanks to the Big Lottery Fund.
As well as South Tynside Citizens Advice Bureau, nine other groups have been granted funding which has been raised by lottery players.
Good causes range from a befriending service in Jarrow to exercise classes for older people in South Shields.
Groups benfitting include: Emmaus North East - £243,000 to support accommodation for homeless people;
Age Concern Tyneside South - £9,940 to deliver healthy living activities for older people in South Tyneside;
Apna Ghar Minority Ethnic Women’s Centre - 9,907 to provide a combined programme of basic English, numeracy, literacy and employment skills training for BME women;
Boldon Health and Well Being CIC - £9,800 to build a community shed to deliver weekly workshops for woodworking and bike repairs to reduce isolation;
Friends of West Park Jarrow - £9,701 to provide new facilities for the park and to help deliver an event to promote the park
The Creative Seed CIC - £9,600 to hold after school classes over 20 weeks for children to help aid confidence, social skills and development;
Churches Together South Tyneside - Happy at Home Project - £8,908 to recruit more volunteers for their home befriending service and online shopping service for older people;
Jarrovians Rugby Union Football Club Limited - £6,200 to help fund a community engagement day to celebrate the group’s 40th anniversary
Cleadon in Bloom - £1,200 to undertake a feasibiluty study and designn work for the renovation of the local pond site so they can seek funds for the project.