Citizens Advice Bureau calls for support as it gears up to celebrate 75th anniversary

DARLINGTON’S Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is appealing for support as it approaches its 75th anniversary.

The CAB, which currently provides help and advice for more than 9,000 people a year, has played a vital part at the heart of the town since the Second World War.

Within days of WWII breaking out, hundreds of bureaux had been set up across the country to provide support for families struggling to cope with the impact of war.

Darlington CAB first opened in September 1939 at a location in Horsemarket. Within five years, it had dealt with 33,000 inquiries.

Nowadays, the organisation deals with about 25,000 enquiries every year, employs 23 staff and relies on the services of 76 volunteers.

It offers advice and signposting services on issues including debt, welfare reform and energy costs.

Demand for its services has increased recently as the town’s residents battle through austere times.

However, the organisation has also faced a financial struggle in recent years and is now calling for support.

Chief Executive Neeraj Sharma said: “We’re not centrally-funded and we have to generate our own income.

“The biggest challenge for us is always funding. The continuous contracting of the public purse means we usually have to go after external funding against strong competition.

“Our staff go through redundancy exercises every year because we’re relying on short term funding.

“It’s demoralising and means we lose people who opt to work in an industry that is more secure but doesn’t utilise their skills.

“If not for local authority funding, we would have to close but this service is important to have in the town.”

He added: “We’re moving out of a recession at the moment but it could take years for people in the North-East to recover.

“Even if people get back into employment, they may struggle transitioning off benefits or face their creditors becoming more demanding and asking for more in repayments.

“It’s vital to have support there to help people manage their debts and help them find long term solutions.”

The organisation also needs to raise enough money to refurbish their building, with repairs estimated at more than £250,000.

A 1940s Glitz Ball will be hosted by the CAB on Saturday, in a bid to raise funds while celebrating its 75th year.

For more information or to book tickets, call 01325 256999 or email events@darlingtoncab.co.uk

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