137 East Cambs families kept off street thanks to Ely-based charity Citizens Advice Rural Cambs

Dr Batul Dungarwalla, chief executive officer and Margaret Goldthorpe, advice service leader at Citi

Dr Batul Dungarwalla, chief executive officer and Margaret Goldthorpe, advice service leader at Citizens Advice Rural Cambs receiving the cheque from Cllr Ralph Butcher on behalf of Whittlesey Town Council in 2017. - Credit: Archant

One-hundred-and-thirty-seven East Cambridgeshire families were kept off the streets in the last six months thanks to an Ely-based advice charity.

Citizens Advice Rural Cambs has supported 1,504 clients – including 227 who received help with financial skills - and helped to deal with 7,000 issues since the end of September 2017.

Chairman Dr Batul Dungarwalla, chief executive, said by the end of this year more than 2,000 clients would have been helped with advice about issues including benefits, debt, relationship problems, employment matters and housing.

He added that 80 per cent of the queries were resolved at the point of contact and that, thanks to funding from East Cambs District Council (ECDC), two out of every three East Cambs clients had their problems resolved.

The charity hopes to set up eight community hubs across East Cambs in places like libraries and health centres where staff would be on hand to help people and give advice.

Dr Dungarwalla however described the charity’s future funding as “uncertain and scarce”, adding that the demand for advice and assistance could be increased due to the roll out of Universal Credit.

Talking to ECDC’s community services committee, she asked how the charity could work together with the district council – “using the 24:7 data to work smarter, and how they could support ECDC with the issues surrounding homelessness”.

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Committee chairman Councillor David Ambrose Smith said it was important that the charity “remains sustainable” and that Dr Dungarwalla’s questions would be put to officers for a response.

Cllr Smith said community hubs are important and that he believed the district council should work with Citizens Advice Rural Cambs.

Talking about one particular client who had been referred by a support worker, Dr Dungarwalla said that, having taken steps to help resolve their problem, they were now in a position to apply for permanent accommodation and was looking for work.

The Ely office, at 70 Market Street, has two full-time staff and 31 volunteers and clients can get help face to face, by email and via webchat.

The drop-in opening hours are from 9.15am to 12noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

There is also a Wisbech office located at 9 Church Mews and the drop-in opening hours are from 9.30am to 12.30pm Monday to Thursday.

Visit www.citizensadviceruralcambs.org.uk for more information.