Herefordshire Council’s Helen Coombes formally signed off the cut of £117,460 last month – less than £1 per resident – stating that they are looking to fold part of the advice service into a new, broader health organisation, which will be overseen by the council.
The advice service will go out to tender for a new contract to start in April, with the council apparently hoping that the CAB will be one of the those making a bid!
While we are all aware of the tough cuts the council claims it needs to make, one look at the somewhat eye-watering amounts which are paid out in salaries and wages annually shows that austerity did not hit those at the top. Although it is mentioned in the council’s 2015 draft pay policy statement that cuts have been made to senior posts, it does not say where from and how much has been saved.
In 2013 Herefordshire CAB won ‘Volunteer Team of the Year’ as well as being rated in the top 7% of bureaux in England and Wales for the quality of the advice given.
The charity and its volunteers helped 5,180 people with 6,778 cases, dealing with 13,148 issues in the 2013/2014 period. The demographic of those helped has an interesting range. Over 22% were over the age of 60, 44% were in work and 46% identified themselves as disabled or suffering from a long term health condition.
The main purpose of the advice is to provide a positive difference to the lives of those seeking advice and, while not all of the outcomes can be quantified in monetary value, those that do tend to fall into two categories: increases in income, and management of debts.
The advice given had a financial benefit to Herefordshire residents of £4,420,865 during the 2013/14 period. While this is a huge amount of money this equates to only 10% of the estimated loss of £43m the county has suffered due to the effects of welfare reform.
The council itself reported that the number of food parcels given out by Hereford foodbank in the first three months of 2014 was over double that in the same period in 2013. Figures just collated for November 2014 show 161 people were provided for, 54 of those children. Hereford CAB helped refer some of these people in the worst instances.
While you may not have used the CAB yourself, you will know someone who has. Just a glance through some of the tweets and quotes on the website shows how emotional some people are getting over its potential loss.
But it is not emotion itself that can help save this service, it is action. If you only do one thing today, please take a minute sign the petition: http://www.herefordshirecab.org.uk/