Advisers for a Fife agency helped secure the equivalent of £31 for every resident in the kingdom in the last year.
Citizens Advice and Rights Fife (CARF) netted just over £11.5 million for its clients in 2018/19 in the form of benefits, tax credits and National Insurance, as well as debt remedies such as bankruptcy or trust deeds, financial products and services and tax.
The figures are contained in the organisation’s annual performance report and show a slight rise on the £11.4 million in financial gain recorded in 2017/18.
The voluntary agency, which provides citizen and welfare benefit advice services throughout Fife, said it dealt with around 1,300 new multiple debt cases – again broadly in line with the previous year.
However, individuals appear to be racking up more debt before they seek help, with the total amount involved rising from £13.5 million to £14.3 million over the last 12 months.
Paul Vaughan, head of Fife Council’s communities and neighbourhoods service, praised CARF’s work and its wider impact.
“While CARF’s annual financial gain is high at £11.5m, the actual return to the Fife economy is likely to be significantly higher than the monetary figure when improvements to health and wellbeing are factored in,” he said.
However, he also highlighted the “challenging” environment it faced with regard to funding and demand on services.
Mr Vaughan noted that CARF was awarded £1.87 million in core grant support last year and attracted more than £740,000 in external funding. However, it also reached the end of several funding streams in March 2019 and considered a handful of redundancies.
No compulsory job cuts were necessary but Mr Vaughan warned an agreed salary increase to be applied in April 2020 will cost around £49,000 and “may adversely affect services going forward”.
The group adopted an initial 3.5% pay rise and subsequent 3% increase in line with Fife Council and Mr Vaughan noted: “The organisation planned for and absorbed these costs but the increases have placed additional burden on CARF and it has been difficult for CARF to continue to maintain existing terms and conditions of employment.
“The further increase of 3% scheduled for April 2020 is likely to exacerbate such problems.”
The report also highlighted the introduction of a Scottish Social Security Agency, saying it represented an opportunity for CARF to develop a relationship that will benefit Fifers by ensuring non-duplication of services and complementary working.