Sunderland MP to raise Citizens Advice Bureau plight in Parliament

Chris Graham, chairman of Sunderland Citizens Advice Bureau with Denise Irving, deputy manager of the service and Sharon Hodgson MP.'Sunderland CAB is facing a  50 per cent cut in funding.
Chris Graham, chairman of Sunderland Citizens Advice Bureau with Denise Irving, deputy manager of the service and Sharon Hodgson MP.'Sunderland CAB is facing a 50 per cent cut in funding.
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A CRISIS hit centre is to have its fight for survival raised in Parliament.

Sunderland’s Citizens Advice Bureau (Cab) has lost £200,000 – half its annual funding – due to cuts.

Bosses at the organisation fear they may have to turn their helpline off in April if money is not secured in the coming weeks.

Now Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, has stepped in to help support the charity.

She said: “Lots of people from all backgrounds rely on the Cab at some of the most desperate times of their lives to provide impartial advice and signpost them to specialist help.

“But just like so many of this Government’s cuts and policies, it will be the poorest and most vulnerable who will be hardest hit. Seeing the Cab become at best a skeleton service, particularly at a time of upheaval in the benefit and social housing system, would be extremely detrimental.

“I therefore intend to raise the problems Sunderland Cab is having in Parliament at the earliest opportunity, and do whatever else I can to ensure that this vital facility is still available to my constituents beyond April.”

Should the charity be forced to close it would mean no more free legal advice for those unable to pay for a solicitor, no free advice on what benefit entitlements are available and limited support for those facing crippling debts.

The organisation takes up to 2,000 calls a month and says current changes to the benefits system means demand for the organisation is greater than ever.

Last year, the charity employed 30 people at its base in Concord, Washington, but now there are 17.

Three years ago, the charity received a grant from the Big Lottery Fund, but this cash is now running out and, from this April, the prospects of continuing the service at its current level look bleak.

Denise Irving, deputy manager for Citizens Advice Sunderland, said: “I’ve no idea where these people are going to go if they can’t call us. It was great that Sharon could spare the time to come and visit us and see what we do.

“Sharon was keen to find out more about the services that we would still be able to provide and those that would be affected, and if there was anything that could be done to help us and help plug the gap.’’