Councillor Campbell and Derek Mitchell from CAS
South Ayrshire Council and Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) have set out their collective commitment to high-quality, community-based and independent advice services for the people and places of South Ayrshire following a meeting today to discuss available provision.
Across South Ayrshire, the Council currently provides comprehensive, quality information and advice services delivered by well-trained staff through an extensive network of libraries, Customer Service Centres and a dedicated Information and Advice Hub in Ayr. This also includes an outreach service to other parts of South Ayrshire.
These services are complemented by consumer advice services through trading standards and employability advice and support through the employability and skills team.
Council Leader, Councillor Douglas Campbell and Chief Executive, Eileen Howat met with CAS' Chief Executive Officer Derek Mitchell to discuss the potential for the existing Council services to be complemented through CAS, with a focus on ensuring local people continue to have access to the best possible help and advice when they need it.
The meeting follows recent publicity surrounding attempts by a local group to set up a Citizens Advice Bureau in Ayr. This group in fact has no authority to do so as CABs can only be formally established by Citizens Advice Scotland. The possibility of establishing a CAB with the authority and support of Citizens Advice Scotland was discussed at today's meeting.
Councillor Campbell said: "My focus is on ensuring that our residents have easy access to the best advice and advocacy services as close to home as possible, and where a comprehensive and flexible service can be provided at one point of contact rather than people being passed about from pillar to post.
"I'm confident that our current provision – which was designed to meet the growing demand for advice and support in relation to the likes of budgeting, money and debt advice, benefits information, income maximisation and fuel poverty – does just that.
"I'm very proud of the service we deliver day in and day out to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and the difference it makes to them. However, we will never be complacent, and it was certainly helpful to discuss the potential additional resourcing and support that could be progressed in conjunction with Citizens Advice Scotland. We will consider this in more detail in the coming weeks and, in the meantime, my thanks to Derek for the productive meeting."
Derek Mitchell said: "There is a growing demand for good advocacy and advice services right across the country as more and more people are impacted by welfare reform changes, the roll-out of Universal Credit, changes in the jobs market and the increasing pressures on every penny they have.
"I want to ensure that the people of South Ayrshire have the same opportunities as the vast majority of citizens across Scotland to access free, impartial and confidential quality advice across a broad range of issues to get the help and support they need, and I know that commitment is mirrored by the Council.
"I was pleased to get a clearer understanding of the services the Council currently provides and to discuss where there could be potential for this to be improved even further in conjunction with Citizens Advice services. My hope would be that we can establish a partnership that will allow the people of South Ayrshire to get the support and redress they need."
Further information on advice services provided in South Ayrshire can be found here, including a detailed Frequently Asked Questions section.