Sunday, 9 February 2014

Citizens Advice Bureaus (and Kirsty Williams)

Kirsty Williams, the local Assembly Member, is making a visit to Hay on Friday 14th, though it hasn't been very well publicised. She'll be holding a surgery at the Parish Hall from 10.30am to 11.30am.

Meanwhile, back at Powys County Council: they've decided to defer the closing of the public toilets until next year, but they're going to close all the Citizen's Advice Bureaus in Powys, making a saving of around £93,000. There are offices in Newtown, Ystradgynlais and Brecon. Last year, the Citizen's Advice offices managed to help over 6,000 people. They made sure that 2.2 million pounds of benefits went to the people who were entitled to it - unclaimed benefits (because the people who are entitled to it don't know about it, or don't know how to claim it) stood at 1.3billion pounds last year for the whole of the UK.
So closing the CABs will directly affect the poorest people in the country, who have no other place to go to for help. It will also mean that Powys will be the only county in Wales without a CAB office. They also give advice about tax, debt, housing, legal problems, employment issues, immigration and consumer rights, amongst other things.
I have only needed to go to the CAB once, but when I did, I really didn't know where else to turn for the advice I needed. I was leaving my alcoholic husband, and later dealing with his premature death. The staff at the Brecon CAB were very helpful and patient, and I really don't know what I would have done without them.
Modern life is so complex no-one can know the right thing to do in every situation, whether it's complaining about a broken sofa or finding out about widow's pensions, or getting the money you're entitled to as a welfare payment. I wouldn't be at all surprised if closing the offices cost the Council more than keeping them open would do.
Anyone who is concerned about this has until 18th February to write to Councillor Barry Thomas, the leader of Powys County Council. There is also a petition at

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