Friday, 4 September 2009

From rationing to recession – Citizens Advice Bureaux turn 70

Debt and benefits enquiries soar as recession takes hold – new figures out today

As the Citizens Advice Bureau service turns 70 today (Friday 4 September) record numbers of people are turning to the charity for help with recession-linked problems of job loss and debt.

New figures show Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales dealing with 9,300 new debt problems and 8,000 new benefit problems every working day.

Debt problems shot up 27% and enquiries about welfare benefits leapt by 22% in the three months to the end of June 2009 compared with the same period last year. At 1,671,183 the total problem count for the three months April – June 2009 was up by 17% on the same period last year.

Enquiries about job seekers allowance doubled (up 99%) and redundancy-related problems went up by three-quarters (74%), while problems with mortgage arrears were up 44% and fuel debts up 53% compared with the same period last year.

These figures* come out as the charity celebrates turning 70, and its archives chart how much people’s problems have changed over the decades**:

  • Wartime austerity and enemy action saw bureaux helping people trace missing relatives, helping them get back on their feet after being bombed out of their homes and losing everything, arranging evacuation for mothers and children, and sorting out problems with rationing.
  • By the 1960s, a social revolution was taking place and new-found affluence began to replace austerity for many. But the consumer boom brought new problems as people realised they could 'buy now, pay later', and housing problems and divorce dominated CAB caseloads.
  • As a new millennium dawned bureaux were still helping people cope with the fallout from two recessions, mass unemployment, a repossessions crisis and unprecedented access to easy credit. Debt and benefits became the biggest issues brought to bureaux by far.

Now tackling around six million problems of all kinds every year, the volunteer-based charity involving 27,000 people has been used by almost half the population at some time in their lives.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive David Harker said:

“From rationing to recession, the CAB has been there for people in times of crisis throughout all the past 70 years. Dipping into the decades of our history shows that some of the problems people have may have changed but the need for our service certainly has not.

“As we celebrate our 70th birthday our new figures show that what started out as an emergency service in wartime is now needed more than ever as the recession continues to take its toll on people’s lives.”

To mark the charity’s milestone anniversary and raise funds for local Citizens Advice Bureaux,115 Citizens Advice service volunteers and staff aged 19 to 72 will be taking part today (Friday 4 September) in two sponsored skydives with the famous Red Devils parachute team, in Nottingham and Salisbury.

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