Long-serving CAB member retires

A LONG serving member of the North East Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureau retired at its annual meeting in Lowestoft last Friday after 43 years voluntary service.

A LONG serving member of the North East Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureau retired at its annual meeting in Lowestoft last Friday after 43 years voluntary service.

Margaret Saunders, who lives in the Beccles area, first became involved in setting up the Lowestoft bureau in 1965, and has remained involved since then, in a variety of ways - first as an advisor, then as a board member, and filling the roles of secretary, chairman and bureau trustee.

“To every role Margaret has brought her own particular blend of enthusiasm, strategic thinking, care for the well-being of staff and clients, and common sense. It is to Margaret and people like her that the Bureau owes its continued existence.” said bureau manager Janet John, who presented her with a bouquet as a thanks for all her work.

“We provide training for all our volunteers and are always looking for new volunteers. At the moment we would be particularly interested in hearing from potential Trustee Board members especially anyone with fund-raising skills.”

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Reflecting on her time with the Bureau, Margaret said that consumer and debt issues had always featured highly in the Bureau's work but now more so than ever. The Bureau was currently assisting clients with over £10million worth of debt.

The Bureau, an independent charity offering free confidential advice on all areas of law, has main offices in Beccles, Bungay and Lowestoft, and offers outreach services in Halesworth, Kessingland and Bungay Medical Centre and an in-reach at HMP Blundeston. In addition the Bureau offers a service at Lowestoft County Court - helping people facing re-possession.

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The meeting heard the Bureau provided more than 16,500 hours of advice on 15,329 problems to 5,375 clients in 2007/08. The County Court service advised 90 people last year, 78pc of whom were enabled to remain in their homes.

“We are able to deliver such a comprehensive service because over 70% of our staff are volunteers” said Ms John. “Our volunteers come from all walks of life and between them undertake a wide range of activities such as campaigning and social policy work, reception and admin, advising, and Trustee Board Membership. We estimate that the economic value of our volunteers' work is around £323,500 each year.”

The guest speaker was Carol Garrett, education and legal services manager for Suffolk County Council, who outlined the value of the Bureau not only to the community it serves but also to the County Council and District Council alike.

Ms John said the last six months we have seen a 14% increase in the number of clients concerned about debt, and a staggering 45% increase in the number of problems people need our advice about.

The debt and welfare benefits contact number is 01502 525850.

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