Benefit questions on the increase in Bognor Regis.

Questions about benefits have soared at Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice Bureau.

The total of new issues raised by clients of the help points between April and September this year soared by about 15 per cent.

The figure of 4,301 for the six months this year compared to 3,744 in the same period during 2010.

The surge confirmed the issue as the biggest single category of questions dealt with by the bureau’s centres in Bognor Regis, Littlehampton and Chichester.

This increase reflects the impact of the tough economic conditions on the income of households as they grapple with rising costs, low wages or unemployment.

Among those in need who are helped have been former servicemen and women through a project with the Royal British Legion.

Project manager Jackie Clarke told the bureau’s recent annual meeting: “Debt is, again, on the increase and I see people from all age groups, from young soldiers to 83-year-olds.

“Our fund providers, the Legion, have been particularly helpful in some of these cases and have paid off some very urgent priority debt where clients have been in danger of losing their homes.

“They also help out with many other necessary items if I can present a needy case, like food vouchers and removal and settling costs.”

Matters concerning utility companies had also risen sharply during the six months from 126 to 143. Other categories of inquiries which had increased included education and jobs.

The Bognor advice centre is based at the town hall in Clarence Road. It became part of the three-strong Citizens’ Advice Bureau halfway through the 2009/10 financial year.

The centre has about 60 volunteers alongside paid experts from the Legal Services Commission. It is open 9.30am-4.30pm Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 9.30am-7pm Wednesday and 11am-4.30pm Friday.