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Additional Investment for Money Advice and Welfare Rights Services

19th February 2009

For a second year running, The Highland Council is committing a further 100,000 to money advice and welfare rights services in the Highlands.

This takes the Council's annual funding for these important services to 1,414,000.

Recognising the impact of the current recession on families and individuals, the Council is striving to manage the debt burden of some customers and maximise the benefits of others.

Support is provided jointly by the Council's in-house team of money advice and customer income maximisation officers as well as advisers at nine Citizens Advice Bureau offices in the Highlands.

The additional 100,000 in 2008/9 has helped provide 67 hours extra of money advice per week; 98 hours extra of welfare rights per week; and 50 hours extra of general advice per week.

In the new financial year, commencing on 1 April, the Council is apportioning an extra 66,000 to increasing the capacity of its in-house team. This will include the introduction of a full-time income maximisation officer in Dingwall, covering the East and West Coast to complement the existing money advice post; the introduction of two part-time money advice officer posts to cover Lochaber and the East Coast.

An additional 42,600 is be apportioned to increase contact time in the voluntary sector, through an increase of 26 hours money advice ; an increase of 17.5 hours welfare rights and an increase in support hours of 29.

Councillor Carolyn Wilson, Chairman of the Resources Committee, welcomed the efforts being made to assist those members of the community in most need of support.

She said: "The recession is impacting upon many areas of day to day life. Our Recession Action Plan recognises the importance of advice and information services and I am delighted that we are channelling extra resources into debt and money advice, benefit entitlement, energy efficiency measures, employment rights, business advice, housing advice, consumer advice and emotional support."

From April - December, last year, there were 30,161 contact for general and welfare advice, an 8% increase over the previous year. For money advice, 551 customers contacted advice agencies and 285 contacted the Council's in-house team, a 9.5% increase.

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