A third of the food vouchers handed out by Citizens Advice in Canterbury in 2017/18 were given to provide meals for children.
In total, 275 vouchers covering children were provided by CA in the year to 31 March— meaning that more than one of these vouchers was given out for every working day.
Added to the 562 adults-only vouchers, the centre distributed 837 tickets to go to the Canterbury Food Bank during the year.
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The free advice agency saw the overall number of issues it dealt with go up 50% in the 12-month period. It advised nearly 4,000 clients (3,871) on just under 10,000 issues (9,793).
Despite the increase in demand for its services, the CA struggled to deal “with the onerous demand of securing core funding for the next two years”, according to its annual report.
However, it has now been promised core funding for that period from Canterbury City Council. Nevertheless, CA chair Any Maysey said at its AGM on 16 November that the grant “does not mean, in any way, that we are financially secure”.
It only managed to maintain its services in some areas because volunteers — particularly in Whitstable and in the areas of IT and supervision — agreed to step into the gaps.
The CA, headquartered in Canterbury’s Westgate Hall Road, gives advice for the residents of Canterbury, Herne Bay, Whitstable and the Rural Areas.
District Manager Simone Field says in her annual report that they are “seeing a client base with increasingly complex needs”.
On average, each client is raising 2.5 issues — covering a wide range of areas such as benefits with 41% of the CA’s workload. Debt accounts for 15%, housing 7%, relationships 6.5% and employment 6%.
A mother who had £0.86 in her bank account for herself and her children, after she had paid her bills, was anonymously described as a “typical case”.
The CA issued food vouchers and also discussed the possibility with the Food Bank of letting this family continue to receive support after the usual five parcels until the mother started to receive a benefit she had just applied for.
A couple of months later, the mother came to the CA again but with debt issues this time. These problems were sorted by helping her claim all the benefits she was entitled to, helping her create a personal budget and contacting her credits and setting up a payment plan with them.
The CA said: “That client was grateful for the help that was given to her when she needed it, which is the aim of Citizens Advice.”