Thousands needing help of Citizens Advice

Yvonne Fovargue MP
Yvonne Fovargue MP

MORE than 13,000 Wiganers needed the help of the borough’s Citizens Advice service to resolve problems last year, new figures have revealed.

The statistics show residents brought 13,637 problems to Wigan and Leigh Citizens Advice last year.

The top five issues were debt, benefits and tax credits, consumer problems, employment and housing.

Research done by the organisation also shows the importance of advice services to people in difficulties, with 78 per cent of Citizens Advice clients saying they would not have been able to solve their problems without the help of their local branches.

Wigan and Leigh Citizens Advice chief officer Lisa Kidston says the service is able to help residents with a huge range of issue and also benefits the borough as a whole as it recovers money which can then be spent in the local economy.

Ms Kidston said: “One of our greatest strengths as a service is the flexibility to deal with most issues that come through our door.

“We provide a holistic service which looks deeper than the presenting issue and really gets to the root cause of the clients problem.

“In 2014-15 we dealt with 5089 debt issues and 4522 benefit issues, gaining our clients an approximate annualised value of £1.8. This is money which is generally put back into the local economy so the borough benefits as a whole from our help.”

The service’s work has also received support from Westminster as it was thanked for its effort on residents’ behalf by Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue, who was chief executive of St Helens Citizens Advice before she entered the House of Commons in 2010.

Ms Fovargue said the organisation provided an essential service for those who find themselves in serious difficulties.

She said: “Wigan and Leigh Citizens Advice is a vital front line service that supports people to overcome the challenges they face.

“I am acutely aware of how issues such as debt, benefits and consumer problems affect the borough. I value the work that Lisa and her team of dedicated staff and volunteers undertake and I will continue to work closely with them to tackle these problems head on.”

The borough’s Citizens Advice service is also continuing to find new ways for increasingly time-strapped residents to gain the support they need.

The organisation recently partnered with the Wigan Advice Network (WAN) to launch an advice service using online software Skype, which means they can have a free video call with an advisor at a time which is convenient for them.

The service also ran a pilot scheme in around 10 GPs’ surgeries across the borough using doctors’ premises as a place where people can talk freely about their problems which was mentioned by Lord Law of Dalston in a national report.

Ms Kidston attended the launch of the investigation at the House of Lords.