High demand for benefits

Benefits are top of the list of queries people bring to us at Citizens Advice Torridge, North, Mid & West Devon but the cost-of-living crisis has seen increasing numbers of people come for advice on rising energy costs and managing debt. Fuel debt is the second highest debt issue and although we have been able to run campaigns providing fuel vouchers, advise on the benefits of installing a smart meter and other ways to save on energy, it remains a very real problem as so many families decide between heating and eating.

Our money advice services have been funded by the Money Advice and Pensions Service and the Henry Smith Charity as well as 2 local funders to provide face to face and digitally based debt advice. We provide energy advice and have been working closely with local foodbanks; increasingly, people are now coming to rely on them. In May and June we helped 62 clients via foodbanks with 247 issues generating £3,194,390 back to families and thence back into the local economy.

We were therefore utterly delighted that our application to the Big Lottery was successful and we were awarded funds specifically to address debt and energy issues in Mid Devon. This project launched this month and we are looking to recruit a team leader and paid advisers specifically to address these issues with volunteer support. Whilst there is much to grasp on the subject of energy costs and available help not to mention the many ways that people can save on their fuel and energy costs, debt is a very specialised, regulated area so training is very intense. However, having a dedicated team focusing on Mid Devon means that our other advisers are available to deal with debt and energy issues raised elsewhere in our area.

We are attending the North Devon Homes Fayre at Petroc on 27th. July at which we shall be conducting research via a cost-of-living questionnaire as well as providing materials advising on energy advice, priority services, smart meters and hints and tips on reducing energy use and therefore expenditure.

Whilst energy costs are beginning to come down, for many families it is too late as they have already become embroiled in debt which they need our help to deal with. Demand for our services, therefore, is still exceeding our ability to deliver albeit we have a relentless campaign to recruit volunteers. We have, however, recently introduced an email advice service. We started taking emails on 15th. May and in the six weeks up to the end of June had responded to 142 clients. July is already looking busier as at 11th. July we had helped 41 clients.

Our free, local Adviceline number is 0808 27 87 999 and our website is also a useful starting point for local clients www.ruraldevoncab.org.uk If you live locally to us and would be interested in volunteering with us contact recruitment@ruraldevoncab.org.uk for more information.  If you live elsewhere in the UK, please look at the Citizens Advice website for details https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/.


Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.