Aggressive clients are cause for concern

BENEFIT changes are causing some clients of a Bognor Regis help point to be aggressive.

The unruly behaviour at the town’s Citizen’s Advice Centre has been triggered by the lack of help given over the latest welfare payments.

Carol Groves, chief executive officer of the Arun and Chichester Citizen’s Advice Bureau, said the problem arose because of an influx of clients seeking food vouchers.

“This has caused problems for us as the Department of Work and Pensions have tended to signpost clients to us without considering their eligibility for short-term advances and budgeting loans,” she said.

This was causing clients to arive at the CAB in a ‘stressed state’ which, on occasions, ‘has been aggressive’, said Mrs Groves.

“This has caused us concern both in terms of our staff and volunteers as well as overall security.”

She said the conflict could be avoided if the DWP staff helped clients by giving a short-term benefit advance.

Latest statistics show the advice centres in Bognor and Littlehampton dealt with 525 inquiries for food vouchers, about 20 a week, and 241 store vouchers since last April. These are mainly to enable parents to buy nappies.

Mrs Groves made her comments at last week’s meeting of Arun District Council’s overview scrutiny committee.

Her presentation reflected the council’s £110,400 funding of the bureau this year and next year.

Committee member Cllr Roger Nash (L, Pevensey), and CAB volunteer, said: “The DWP in my opinion are not doing their job properly. They are being lazy.

“They are sending clients to the CAB who should not be there.

“They are not telling clients about some of the emergency payments they can get. It then becomes a vicious circle, putting more pressure on the CAB and more pressure on local services.

“The DWP need to get their act together big time because the number of changes that are happening is causing more and more pressure. They are impacting on that by not giving proper advice and making the matter worse.”

He also called on the credit union in Worthing to broaden its services to the Arun district.

“We need that credit union and the finances it can offer in Bognor and Littlehampton. The amount of debt and problems caused by finances by people unable to manage money is growing – and growing very quickly,” he said

Debt was the main topic raised by the centres’ clients in the last half of 2013. During the year, benefits were the main concern, raised by 26.5 per cent of the 8,492 clients who used the Bognor and Littlehampton advice centres and raised 17,391 issues.

This was followed by housing at 13 per cent, employment at 12.8 per cent and debt at 11.4 per cent.