The maze of the benefits system, currently under major change with the introduction of Universal Credit (UC), is enough to challenge the toughest of us.
But for those who are suffering sickness, disability, mental heath problems, caring responsibilities and other difficulties, it can be impossible to face alone.
Many have found valuable assistance through Banburyshire Advice Centre (BAC) which is free to all clients.
Chairman Andy Willis said: “In the last year our ‘client gain’ has been £157,345 in benefits we’ve helped clients obtain and one-off payments.”
The project has just received nearly £10,000 from the Big Lottery fund.
“The Big Lottery was previously impressed with our service and decided to support us for a further year as they knew we make a positive difference to people’s lives.
“Clients always see a trained adviser for all appointments.
”The charity receives no direct funding from the state or council, so we rely on grants and donations to finance us. In the last year the charity has helped more than 700 people.
“Cherwell District Council only funds Citizens’ Advice Bureau but we have asked them for financial help.”
Banburyshire Advice Centre is a member of Advice UK Federation, a national collection of advice centres. It was AdviceUK who, in 1890, invented advice work.
Most of the charity’s work is helping people to fill in complex benefits application forms and to navigate the complexities of the new Universal Credit system.
It also gives advice on housing, care homes and non-residential care, education and leisure, how to find a tradesman, transport, bereavement, and utilities.
Every third Wednesday in the month from 10.30am to 12.30pm at Hanwell Fields Community Centre, BAC holds a Good to Talk group for adult carers.
It is run by carers for carers to allow those in similar situations to chat with others facing the same problems.
BAC also offers careers counselling and operates a carers’ support group. BAC can arrange home visits by the Pension Service for older clients to help with Attendance Allowance forms and Pension Credit.
It will also help with Employment and Support Allowance applications.
“Coming to us for help with these often complex forms takes the stress out of it for the client,” said Mr Willis.
If you need advice, want to make a donation or volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone and leave a message on 01295 279988.
To read about the charity’s concerns over Universal Credit click here.