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More than 3,000 people facing loss of vital advice services in Darlington
THOUSANDS of people could be left without access to vital advice services across Darlington, it is feared.
The chief executive of the town’s Citizens Advice Bureau says 3,663 people across the borough could suffer as a result of possible cut backs.
As reported recently by The Northern Echo, advice services that help vulnerable people - including cancer patients – could soon be axed.
The Darlington Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) provides free advice on issues like benefits, debt, housing and employment. The organisation has been largely funded by the NHS County Durham and Darlington Primary Care Trust (PCT).
However, when the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) replaces the PCT on April 1, there is no guarantee that they will continue to provide the £120,000 funding the CAB relies on to run many of its services.
CAB’s chief executive, Neeraj Sharma, says without the funding, they will be unable to provide appointments for 3,663 clients per year. He says that 1,196 general advice appointments will be lost, as well as 1,056 specialist benefit appointments, 470 specialist debt appointments and 176 employment-related appointments.
He said: “Whilst there are discussions taking place regarding the future commissioning of services, the CAB are not a party to these and we are extremely concerned that during this period the gap between commissioning and the provision of services will result in the undoing of all the good work that has taken years to develop to its current form.
"CAB advice staffs are understandably extremely concerned and anxious.
"It is clear that the cessation of funding could not come at a worse time, with the economic climate showing no signs of improvement and changes to housing benefit and other benefits, additional loss of assistance via legal aid providing the final ingredient required for the perfect storm.”
Dr Andrea Jones, Chair Designate for Darlington Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are continuing to work with key partners in Darlington to help support the CAB.
“Darlington Clinical Commissioning Group has recently confirmed an investment of £42,500 into the CAB service as we recognise the very important and valuable service the CAB provides to vulnerable people in Darlington.”