After the excitement of Christmas and New Year celebrations there will certainly be no let up for the hard-working staff and volunteers at Citizens Advice Leighton-Linslade.
The charity is bracing itself for the usual flood of enquiries in the aftermath of the festive season, with relationship problems and debt enquiries particularly to the fore. Queries about benefits, employment and housing issues are also key ongoing concerns.
In response to demand, its Bossard House, West Street offices will remain open in the gap between Christmas and New Year (Dec 27 10am-1pm, 2-4pm; Dec 28 10am-1pm; Dec 29 10am-1pm).
Chief officer Tabitha Park told the LBO: “We are expecting in January a lot of people coming in with debt issues, relationship problems and consumer problems about Christmas presents.
“People have problems paying for Christmas, things that they have bought and are wanting to return, maybe unwanted presents. People want to know what their rights are.
“People spend a lot of time with their families which can lead to domestic problems and it’s the financial pressures too.”
Although the Leighton branch is seeing a similar number of clients as last year, Tabitha said the complexity of the enquiries has grown, partly because the website www.citizensadvice.org.uk can help solve some of the easier problems.
“They are always adding more content in areas we deal with,” she said. “We also provide phone and email advice through 01525 373878 and www.leightonlinsladecab.org.uk. We hold a fortnightly Thursday morning session too at Bassett Road Surgery which people can book through the practice.”
She continued: “On a busy morning we will have 20 people dropping in. With the complexity of their problems it can take longer to help.
“We are a charity. Lots of people think we are a government agency, but we are not.
“We do get support from Central Beds Council and the town council but we do have to raise money ourselves.”
A key part of that fundraising push is the Magic of the Musicals concert to be held at All Saints Church, Leighton Buzzard on Saturday, February 24 (doors open 7pm for 7.30pm start).
It will feature Leighton Linslade Gala Orchestra and the Grand Union Community Choir. Donations for raffle prizes would be appreciated. For further information and ticket details visit www.leightonlinsladecab.org.uk from January 8.
Tabitha explained: “We have £120,000 running costs and a deficit of £20,000. We made £3,500 from last year’s concert and we apply for other charity funding, hold events and people can donate through our website. It’s the same for Citizens Advice everywhere. We need to raise the money to be able to maintain our opening hours.”
Currently the branch has 45 volunteers, and each is asked to do two half days a week. No specific knowledge is needed, but you need to be happy to do online training, be non judgemental, happy to research information, and maintain confidentiality.
Tabitha said: “It is a very satisfying thing to do. A supervisor is always on duty to give support. If anyone is interested they should get in touch.”