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Advice centres ‘struggling to cope’ as more people seek help in city
MORE people are seeking help from advice centres in Oxford, according to their latest figures.
And changes to the benefits system appear to be driving numbers up.
At the Barton Advice Centre, 8,300 people were helped between April 2011 and March 2012.
Since April 2012, 4,700 have already sought help there.
Suzy Drohan, joint manager and specialist case worker at the centre anticipates that they will experience an increase to 9,500, or nearly 15 per cent, this year.
She said: “We are always busy.
“It might be that we are turning people away.
“We have a drop-in today which opened at 10am but when I looked at 9.30am, there were 10 people queuing at that point.
“We are seeing more people and we are talking about people in work and out of work.”
She said the biggest query was about benefit changes, specifically with the work allowance compatibility assessment and the review of disability allowance.
She said the centre had seen a decrease in numbers in 2010/11 and 2011/12 which she could not explain.
Visitors to Oxford CAB increased from 6,500 people from April 2010 to March 2011 to 6,800 people from April 2011 to March 2012.
Gill Tishler, director of Oxford CAB, said the top four problems visitors have are to do with debt, benefits, housing and unemployment.
She said: “The problems that people bring to us are getting more complicated.
“I think there is an upward trend, although there is a cap on that in terms of our capacity.”
At the Agnes Smith Advice Centre in Blackbird Leys, there has been a slight increase compared to last year, with 1,275 people helped from April 2011 to October 2011 and 1,291 helped since April this year.
Laura Wilson, deputy manager at the centre, said: “It has been slowly building up with the benefit changes and people losing their jobs.”
As reported last week, The Rose Hill and Donnington Advice Centre in Ashhurst Way helped 1,619 people from April 2011 to March 2012, up from 1,489 from April 2010 to March 2011.
Staff have already helped 931 people between April and August this year.
Centre director Carole Roberts said that money management, benefit cuts and unemployment were the biggest issues.