Thousands could suffer when Leytonstone Citizens Advice Bureau closes next year

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: CAB manager Andy Munton CAB manager Andy Munton

THOUSANDS of vulnerable people could suffer when a much-used support centre closes next year.

Leytonstone Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) supports more than 4,000 people in Waltham Forest who are in a spiral of debt and ensures people with poor mental or physical health can access the benefits they need, but will close in March 2013 because two-thirds of its funding has been cut.

The CAB in High Road relies on an annual contract of £200,000 with government quango Legal Services Commission to provide legal aid but this will be abolished from April 2013, meaning the centre has no choice but to close as it cannot survive on its £100,000 contract with Waltham Forest Council alone.

Kay Butt, 51, of Cheney Road, in Walthamstow, uses the service for debt advice and said the closure will reduce access for people like her.

She is in constant pain from Fibromyalgia, and cannot wait at the Walthamstow CAB, where she said people are seen only by appointment.

She said: "I always go there because it has an open door policy and I'm seen immediately. It's a big lifeline for people like me.

"Things are getting worse for us, they're taking everything away. It means there will be more people on the poverty line and more homeless because many people can't live without this help."

Manager of the Leytonstone CAB, Andy Munton, said: "The government is destroying a good service. It's devastating. We're desperately trying to get more money in and are trying to find alternative places we could run some services after closure."

Chair of the Trustee Board of Waltham Forest CAB, Jude Lobendhan, said: "We are worried that large numbers of vulnerable clients will have nowhere to turn and serious cases of unmanageable debt, refusal of benefits and unfair dismissal will simply get worse.

"Trustees and staff are therefore looking at other ways of providing these specialist services. We are working hard to bring in new funding and are also working closely with the London Borough of Waltham Forest to see if existing council funding can be used more flexibly to allow us to meet the continuing need for such advice from both our Walthamstow office and outreach sessions in the Leytonstone area."

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: "The wide-ranging availability of legal aid can lead people to assume legal action is their only option, even where early practical advice could be of more help to them and avoid them needing a lawyer at all.

"That is why the government has already committed £60m to support the provision of general advice by the not for profit sector over the next three years. An additional £3.5m has been awarded to 45 Citizens Advice Bureaux and £1.6m awarded to 17 Law Centres through the transition fund.

"We thought carefully about which areas should be removed from Legal Aid and as a result we will continue to spend approximately £50m on Legal Aid for the social welfare law categories which will fund community care and high priority debt and housing cases."

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Comments (5)

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1:41am Wed 26 Sep 12

Techno3 says...

Would it be possible to clarify the figures in your piece please? Is the paper really reporting Leytonstone CAB to be the sole provider of CAB services in Waltham Forest and, as a measure of the CAB in htis borough's entire advice output, the provider of some kind of a service to 4000 in the last year?

If so, what about the CAB in Walthamstow? Did they provide no services at all? Are there an additional number of people who received services from the CAB in Waltham Forest who are not accounted for in this piece, and additional contracts which they are provided for under which may also be threatened with cuts? Or is this an instance of the CAB in Leytonstone being credited with providing the work undertaken by colleagues in Walthamstow?
Would it be possible to clarify the figures in your piece please? Is the paper really reporting Leytonstone CAB to be the sole provider of CAB services in Waltham Forest and, as a measure of the CAB in htis borough's entire advice output, the provider of some kind of a service to 4000 in the last year? If so, what about the CAB in Walthamstow? Did they provide no services at all? Are there an additional number of people who received services from the CAB in Waltham Forest who are not accounted for in this piece, and additional contracts which they are provided for under which may also be threatened with cuts? Or is this an instance of the CAB in Leytonstone being credited with providing the work undertaken by colleagues in Walthamstow? Techno3

9:05pm Wed 26 Sep 12

Local resident 1 says...

I think the point here is that the staff at the Leytonstone CAB office provide a specialist casework service in areas such as debt and benefits appeals and with the withdrawal of legal aid where will such vulnerable members of the public go. This is at a time of severe austerity where there is a record amount of debt and many vulnerable people wrongly having their benefits stopped due to being found fit for work. Without the Leytonstone Office many local residents will run the greater risk of losing their homes, spiralling debts or the prospect of being denied benefits to which they are legally entitled. My understanding is that the Walthamstow CAB office does not currently provide this specialist service without which local many local residents face losing a further safety net.
I think the point here is that the staff at the Leytonstone CAB office provide a specialist casework service in areas such as debt and benefits appeals and with the withdrawal of legal aid where will such vulnerable members of the public go. This is at a time of severe austerity where there is a record amount of debt and many vulnerable people wrongly having their benefits stopped due to being found fit for work. Without the Leytonstone Office many local residents will run the greater risk of losing their homes, spiralling debts or the prospect of being denied benefits to which they are legally entitled. My understanding is that the Walthamstow CAB office does not currently provide this specialist service without which local many local residents face losing a further safety net. Local resident 1

10:20pm Wed 26 Sep 12

ladywithabeard says...

I think residents of the whole borough should be concerned as the CAB on the whole provide a great service with little resources and an amazing source of information. If Leytonstone are heading for closure then who will provide a Specialist service as my understanding is that Walthamstow are an Assessment unit who filter the enquiries and deal with directing users to other organisations. If legal aid is being diminished then what is to become of the Immense talent that is held at Leytonstone will workers continue the good work elsewhere or will they emerse their talents with Walthamstow and become like a futuristic caller centre like somewhere in Bangalore never to be accessed or seen by the people who desperately need to sort out their suplementary Support and money problems. Hope you councillors out there will do something for your residents in the South of the Borough as we already get a poor deal with a lot of Local services already being cut. Sad news really.
I think residents of the whole borough should be concerned as the CAB on the whole provide a great service with little resources and an amazing source of information. If Leytonstone are heading for closure then who will provide a Specialist service as my understanding is that Walthamstow are an Assessment unit who filter the enquiries and deal with directing users to other organisations. If legal aid is being diminished then what is to become of the Immense talent that is held at Leytonstone will workers continue the good work elsewhere or will they emerse their talents with Walthamstow and become like a futuristic caller centre like somewhere in Bangalore never to be accessed or seen by the people who desperately need to sort out their suplementary Support and money problems. Hope you councillors out there will do something for your residents in the South of the Borough as we already get a poor deal with a lot of Local services already being cut. Sad news really. ladywithabeard

10:20pm Wed 26 Sep 12

ladywithabeard says...

I think residents of the whole borough should be concerned as the CAB on the whole provide a great service with little resources and an amazing source of information. If Leytonstone are heading for closure then who will provide a Specialist service as my understanding is that Walthamstow are an Assessment unit who filter the enquiries and deal with directing users to other organisations. If legal aid is being diminished then what is to become of the Immense talent that is held at Leytonstone will workers continue the good work elsewhere or will they emerse their talents with Walthamstow and become like a futuristic caller centre like somewhere in Bangalore never to be accessed or seen by the people who desperately need to sort out their suplementary Support and money problems. Hope you councillors out there will do something for your residents in the South of the Borough as we already get a poor deal with a lot of Local services already being cut. Sad news really.
I think residents of the whole borough should be concerned as the CAB on the whole provide a great service with little resources and an amazing source of information. If Leytonstone are heading for closure then who will provide a Specialist service as my understanding is that Walthamstow are an Assessment unit who filter the enquiries and deal with directing users to other organisations. If legal aid is being diminished then what is to become of the Immense talent that is held at Leytonstone will workers continue the good work elsewhere or will they emerse their talents with Walthamstow and become like a futuristic caller centre like somewhere in Bangalore never to be accessed or seen by the people who desperately need to sort out their suplementary Support and money problems. Hope you councillors out there will do something for your residents in the South of the Borough as we already get a poor deal with a lot of Local services already being cut. Sad news really. ladywithabeard

11:14pm Wed 26 Sep 12

atkins22 says...

I cannot speak about the walthamstow cab as I have never used the service, but I have used the leytonstone cab regularly over the years and am very sad and angry that it will now be closing! Has everything now come down to money! what about providing a good service where your worries are eased by having someone with such sound knowledge helping you and giving some peace of mind. I would have to ask what kind of service does Walthamstow Cab provide? are they wheelchair friendly? Is their work different than Leytonstone Cab?.Its all well and good that the Ministry of Justice's spokesperson feels that people feel legal action is thought to be our only action, but sadly sometimes that is the case and us 'poor people' have no other way of getting advice but free advice! I have found Leytonstone Cab invaluable to me over the years and no 'direct shop' or JCP Office has helped me more than the people at Leytonstone Cab. Is there no way of stopping this disasterous closure happening? We Citizens of Leytonstone are entitled to our own bureau within short distance of our homes and our community.
I cannot speak about the walthamstow cab as I have never used the service, but I have used the leytonstone cab regularly over the years and am very sad and angry that it will now be closing! Has everything now come down to money! what about providing a good service where your worries are eased by having someone with such sound knowledge helping you and giving some peace of mind. I would have to ask what kind of service does Walthamstow Cab provide? are they wheelchair friendly? Is their work different than Leytonstone Cab?.Its all well and good that the Ministry of Justice's spokesperson feels that people feel legal action is thought to be our only action, but sadly sometimes that is the case and us 'poor people' have no other way of getting advice but free advice! I have found Leytonstone Cab invaluable to me over the years and no 'direct shop' or JCP Office has helped me more than the people at Leytonstone Cab. Is there no way of stopping this disasterous closure happening? We Citizens of Leytonstone are entitled to our own bureau within short distance of our homes and our community. atkins22

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