“Our organisation is still kept very busy and that is one thing that is not affected as the years go by as the constant demand for advice never diminishes,” said Western Isles Citizens Advice Services Chairman David Blaney.
As WICAS prepares for its 2017 AGM, taking place next month, the organisation looks back over the past year, which saw the four CAB offices in the Western Isles deal with 4, 296 client contacts, who raised 7,150 issues.
“I am so grateful to our staff and volunteers for all the hard work they carry out year after year and the excellent service they give to those who contact us for advice on many different and varied issues that come their way,” continued Mr Blaney.
“The past year saw changes to the structure of our organisation and I was so impressed by the smooth transition from the old to the new, and much credit has to go to our Strategic and Operational Managers in the way they implemented such changes.”
Despite going through internal alterations, the Islands’ CAB staff and volunteers remained dedicated to helping local residents, with the top enquires (36%) received relating to Welfare Benefits.
Debt related problems made up 30% of enquiries, and the remaining 34% related to such matters as education, employment, housing, financial products and services, health and community care, immigration, legal, NHS concerns and complaints, relationships, tax, travel and utilities.
As in previous years many clients were given representation at Social Security and Employment Tribunals with excellent results in most of the cases.
And client financial gains, including the above figure amounted to over £713,716. As some clients do not inform the bureaux of the financial outcome of successful advice, the amount is in all likelihood bound to be greater.
To find out more, island residents are invited to the WICAS Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, August 16th, in Lewis CAB, Westview Terrace, Stornoway, at 6pm.
WICAS is grateful to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for their continued core funding and other support the local authority give towards this vital service to the people of the Western Isles.
As a result of extra fundraising from other sources, over the past year, WICAS manages additional specialised Projects such as courts services, welfare reform, health complaints and concerns and personal pension issues.
This has enabled the organisation to employ extra staff, deal with extra enquiries and bring additional income into the Western Isles.
And the four island bureaux – based in Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra – are continually looking for new volunteers who will be given training to carry out various duties in their offices, such as front line advice work and administrative tasks.
WICAS Training Officer Norah MacPhee said: “Life is never dull in any of our offices and one look at the numerous and varied types of issues raised just goes to show how our volunteers can get hooked on their work as the variety of enquiries is endless.”
The organisation would like to hear from anyone who can give some of their time to volunteer – and you can contact any of the offices for further information.
Volunteer Directors are also required to fill vacancies on the Board of Management; and enquiries can be made to any of the offices on what is involved in being a WICAS Director.
Contact details for local CAB offices are –
Barra CAB – Castlebay, Barra, 01871 810608
Uist CAB – 45 Winfield Way, Balivanich, Benbecula, 01870 602421
Harris CAB – Pier Road, Tarbert, Harris, 01859 502431
Lewis CAB – 41-43 Westview Terrace, Stornoway, Lewis, 01851 705727