THE ribbon was cut to open Citizens Advice New Forest’s new offices in Lymington by its patron Lady Montagu.
The Advice hub, in the town hall, was funded with a grant of £5,000 from the Beaulieu Beaufort Foundation, and will help volunteers meet the increasing demand for help from local residents.
Last year they advised more than 7,000 people with 16,000 issues. The 130 New Forest volunteers contributed approximately 33,480 hours of work to the charity.
Nearly half came for face-to-face advice while 27% used the phone line service which is manned by experienced advisors with local knowledge who give free impartial advice on all issues.
For many enquiries a phone call is a good starting point as it gives the opportunity to talk through a problem with an advisor, who may check they are within their rights or recommend what to do first.
Citizens Advice New Forest chief officer Alison Talbot explained: “National Citizens Advice provides all local offices with an up-to-date advice resource database that all our advisors are trained to use. They are expert problem solvers, with a huge amount of experience and local knowledge to pass on to our clients.”
In addition to the advice line, CANF operates the new ‘Help to Claim’ phone and webchat service, providing help and support to people making their first claim for Universal Credit.
Lady Montagu recently invited all the CANF volunteers to Palace House to thank them for their work and celebrate 80 years of Citizens Advice. She presented the CANF team with a memento of the 80th birthday event at the hub launch, and wished them well in their new home.
Alison added: “We are keen to make sure that people can contact us in a way that suits them. We cover a large rural area and sometimes it is more convenient for people to make a phone call, send an email or contact us by webchat.
“Our face-to-face drop-in services are available to people across the Forest in Ringwood library, Lymington town hall, The Grove in Hythe, and 91 Junction Road in Totton.
“By the end of the year we are hoping to provide a service in the library at New Milton. All of these community venues provide drop-ins and bookable appointments for clients at least four days a week.
“We also operate two pop-up venues at Fordingbridge library on Wednesdays and at Ashley Hub in New Milton on Tuesday mornings. We are aiming to make our service as accessible as possible for the New Forest community.”
CANF relies on grants and local fundraising. Donations to its Make a Difference campaign can be made online at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/CANFMAD or visit www.newforestcab.org.uk
Those who needs help should call the advice line on 0300 3309 009