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Citizens Advice Diss, Thetford and District under threat due to funding cuts

A Suffolk outreach programme by Citizens Advice might be forced to close due to severe funding cuts.

The outreach programme in Eye might be affected.
The outreach programme in Eye might be affected.

It comes after Suffolk County Council proposed to halve its grant to the charity to £184,000 for the next two years, before axing it completely in 2020/21.

Although the Suffolk network of offices will feel the impact most, the Diss, Thetford and District branch will also face difficulties.

The branch currently receives 10 per cent of its core funding from Suffolk County Council, some of which is used to fund its weekly outreach programme at Eye Health Centre.

Chief officer Mel Jones said: “The core funding is absolutely crucial for us to carry on our business. We don’t receive any funding for the outreach programme in Eye, other than our core funding.

“So we will have to think very carefully about whether we could continue to operate there.”

The service, which takes place on Thursdays from 9am to 11am, saw 60 clients last year and offers advice regarding benefits, debt, housing and other problems.

The proposed funding cuts could also mean laying off full-time session supervisors in its offices, reducing operating hours and the number of clients they are able to see.

“We are going to do everything we can to try to ensure that services to clients are not compromised,” said Ms Jones. “But we will have to see how we manage with what we have.”

Overall, 50 per cent of the funding will be axed in Suffolk, which is part of a proposed £11.2 million in savings outlined by the authority to balance its budget.

“Realistically, we could continue the same as we are for six months and make some decisions during those six months,” said Ms Jones.

Thousands of people have so far signed a petition launched by Suffolk Citizens Advice calling on the council to drop proposed funding cuts.

“As a group, we helped more than 22,000 people last year in Suffolk,” said Ms Jones. “That is an awful lot of people who are using our service.

“A lot of services have already gone and I don’t know where people will go if there is no Citizens Advice to turn to for help.”

A final decision will be made by full council on February 14.

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