Joe is urging North Ayrshire Citizens Advice Service (NACAS) to retain an advice office in Irvine.
NACAS have announced that they plan to shut 4 of their 5 offices, including the one in Irvine, leaving only one bureau for the whole of North Ayrshire in Saltcoats.
Commenting on the issue, Councillor Cullinane said;
“Citizens Advice is many people’s first port of call when they need advice or assistance. The volunteers and staff do a great job in supporting some of the most vulnerable in society. It is therefore imperative that people, of all backgrounds, have access to the service. I am concerned that the closure of the Irvine office will mean that many won’t.”
“What does someone who has just had their benefits sanctioned do when they need to travel to Saltcoats for advice?”
“What about the vulnerable or disabled PIP or ESA claimant who needs assistance with the latest botched medical assessment from ATOS and Maximus?”
“The Irvine office is a busy one and I am led to believe that, on occasions, they struggle to manage the demand for the service as it is. Closing the office will only make matters worse.”
“I believe we must be saying to NACAS that we need local offices to provide the advice service that people need and I would urge them to re-engage with the Council to see that happen.”
On NACAS comment that the decision comes after a “re-allocation” of funds from North Ayrshire Council due to Council cuts, Joe added;
“NACAS core funding has not been cut. What has been removed from the SNP Council’s budget is additional money that NACAS received to provide additional support to clients around welfare reform. That was a three year funding stream and NACAS were always aware that it would come to an end in 2016/17.”
“In saying all this, NACAS threatened to close 3 offices before the last local Government elections in 2012. The SNP stood on a platform that they would increase funding to NACAS and save those offices. Just a few months ago SNP politicians were patting themselves on the back claiming that they had saved local Citizens Advice offices and it was “unthinkable that NACAS should ever close”. Well here we are a few months later and 4 out of 5 offices are earmarked for closure.”
“With the removal of the welfare reform funding NACAS are back to the same level of core funding that they received under the last Labour administration. The SNP have failed to deliver their manifesto pledge over the full council term.”
“What makes matters worse is that the SNP Council administration has cut funding towards the Council’s own advice service, Money Matters, which now only offers assistance to vulnerable clients of social services and housing, leaving an even bigger gap in the provision of advice services in North Ayrshire.”
“What I want is advice services that are available at the point of need. That’s why I think it’s important that NACAS and North Ayrshire Council get back round the table to resolve this issue.”