New Citizens Advice Bureau gathers steam

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Ashburton’s new Citizens Advice Bureau has been busy, despite not yet advertising it is open for business.

The CAB opened quietly on December 2 as its volunteers were in learning mode and in the 46 days since it has fielded 69 inquiries requiring staff to research answers, as well as 16 simple inquiries for information such as contact telephone numbers.

Co-ordinator Sarah Clifford updated Ashburton District Councillors last week and said there had been a lot of inquiry about legal issues, but questions covered a huge range from tenancy issues to family violence and trees.

Forty-nine of the inquiries had been from Ashburton people and the rest from around the district, or even Christchurch. There had been one inquiry from overseas related to a missing person.

About half were face-to-face with people coming to the CAB rooms at Community House Mid Canterbury on Cass Street and the rest were by email or phone.

Any question could be asked, she said.

Council granted the CAB seeding money last year to get established and Mrs Clifford said the new group was seeking $15,000 a year going forward to put toward operational costs of $58,595 for the next financial year. Other CABs around the country were funded an average 62 per cent of their operational costs, but she was asking for 17 per cent.

CAB nationally is funded by central government, from the Ministry of Social Development and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Mrs Clifford said CAB had access to a community directory with thousands of local contact details, as well as resources at national level to make sure people knew their rights and responsibilities. It provided free and independent advice to help people navigate often stressful times.

Volunteers have trained up to 100 hours each in the initial opening phase and full-on promotion of the CAB will start soon.

The freephone number is 0800 367 222.