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Rory Stewart MP has held an emergency meeting with staff and volunteers of Eden's Penrith-based Citizens Advice Bureau to discuss their current funding crisis. Eden CAB will merge with Carlisle CAB this month, and expects some savings in overheads to be made, however there are concerns about the impact of staff reductions and manager-sharing on the three-day per week service. Staff and volunteers were able to update Rory on their efforts to engage with Eden District Council and other funders and stakeholders in order to try and avert such a funding crisis.
He is especially concerned that there is a risk that the much-valued general advice service will have to be reduced from 3 days to 1 day per week in early 2013, which he believes would be enormously detrimental to residents in Eden who use the service, and has offered to act as a broker between the CAB and various local authorities and organisations, pledging to help the service to secure funding in order to keep its 3-day service going.
He said: "I would like to reassure residents of Eden that I have pledged to do all I can to support the Eden CAB service. This is such a valuable community asset, one that I believe must be preserved at all costs. I held a very helpful meeting with the staff and volunteers at Penrith regarding the critical shortage in funding and potential reduction of their services, and I will be asking local councillors and other organisations - such as the Cumbria Constabulary and the NHS - for their support at this critical time, as well as lobbying the local authorities to help support the service financially. I am enormously impressed by the work that they do, and fear losing this service for the sake of just a few thousand pounds would be disastrous."
Based on 2010/2011 figures, up to 1,000 people could lose out each year, no longer getting the support they need, if the service were to reduce or close. In 2011/112 Eden CAB delivered advice and information to 1,413 clients on 4,494 separate issues all over Eden; their specialist debt advice service, funded by Cumbria County Council, supported 165 clients to manage £2 million of debt, and for a fourth successive year last year they exceeded the contract target for people helped by over 60%.