The Western Isles network of Citizens Advice Bureaux has seen a busy year, with increasing need for debt advice and growing problems for people with rent and mortgage arrears.

“The past year has seen a lot of changes, challenges and achievements. In particular the Welfare Reform legislation has led to, as expected, a greater demand on our services," said WICAS Chairman, David Blaney as the organisation prepares for this year’s AGM.

"As the growing economic and financial pressures are felt by many in our community so has the need for debt advice increased as has advice to those who are facing difficulties in meeting rent and mortgage payments.”

During the year the four offices in the Western Isles dealt with client contacts totalling 5,136 who raised 6,424 issues.

The top enquiries of 41% related to Welfare Benefits which was an increase of 6% compared to the previous year and debt related problems were at 18% as staff dealt with new debts for the year totalling £1,619,020.

The other 41% of enquiries related to such matters as employment, housing, legal, NHS concerns and complaints, Council and Income Tax to name a few.

As in previous years many clients were given representation at Social Security and Employment Tribunals with excellent results in most of the cases.

Client financial gains, including the above figure amounted to just under £600,000. As some clients do not inform the bureaux of the financial outcome of successful advice, the amount is in all likelihood bound to be greater.
WICAS is accredited to Scottish National Standards for Advice and Information and also meets he Membership requirements of Citizens Advice Scotland by passing the Quality of Advice and Organisational Audits.

WICAS is grateful to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for the continued funding of the vital service to the people of the Western Isles and income from the six Projects being run by the organisation helps to supplement the core funding provided by the Council.

The four bureaux are continually looking for new volunteers who will be given training to carry out various duties in their offices and if anyone can give some of their time they can contact either of the offices for more information.

WICAS Training Officer, Norah MacPhee said: "Life is never dull in any of our offices and one look at the numerous and varied types of issues raised just goes to show how our volunteers can get hooked on their work as the variety of enquiries is endless."

The Annual General Meeting will be held in Committee Room 3 at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Stornoway, on Tuesday 18 August 2015 at noon. All welcome to attend.