A benefits advice service operating in just one area of Barnsley has helped residents claim an extra £2.8m they may have otherwise lost over the last 12 months – with every pound spent on providing assistance helping to generate more than £20 for those who need it.
The service is provided in north Barnsley under an agreement between Citizens Advice Bureau and the support organisation DIAL, financed by the North Area Council, which has a budget from Barnsley Council to improve communities in that district.
In the last three months alone, advice given to residents has generated an additional £973,000 in fresh benefit payments, taking the year’s total to £2,815,177.
Over the course of the year advisors have helped 1,779 people, either with benefit claims or with managing existing debts.
Helping to sort out people’s finances is an important part of the team’s work and they have helped manage debts totalling almost £430,000 in the last year.
Councillors who sit on North Area Council have been told demand for the service was so high, a ‘mini triage’ service had been introduced, where those wanting help were seen in priority order.
Area manager Rosie Adams told the meeting: “If there is anything absolutely urgent, they will ensure they are prioritised.”
Coun Roy Miller said: “Some people are close to committing suicide because they are at the end of their tether and cannot work through the system.
“People are getting help at the most depressing time of their lives.”
He suggested the situation should be highlighted with the full Barnsley Council and Coun Phillip Lofts added: “I don’t know how many local authorities have quantified the amount of need and poverty there is.
“I think this should be fed on to our MPs and Parliament to show just how poor many people are.”
The success of the work, in terms of cash raised against the cost of the scheme, works out in excess of £20 coming back for every pound spent, a figure substantially higher than the return on other schemes – regarded as successful in their own right – operating in other parts of the borough.