THE Citizens Advice Bureau for Tunbridge Wells opened a new office in Monson Way last week, which has put them back at the centre of the town’s agencies and charities.
The headquarters, in the Town & Country Housing Group’s building, was opened by the Mayor of Tunbridge Wells, Julia Soyke, and MP Greg Clark on Friday.
Alison Kemp, Grants Manager of Citizens Advice Tunbridge Wells & District, said: ‘We used to be in Monson Road, then we moved to Vale House, but we felt a bit remote from everyone else down there.
‘It’s good to be back because a lot of our partners are here, like the Pickering Cancer Drop-In Centre and Imago.’
Citizens Advice has seen its workload growing during the years of recession following the financial crisis.
In 2017, the bureau’s team of 70-plus volunteers helped over 5,300 people – more than one in 20 in the borough – in 11,000 sessions, and secured for them £1.145million in debt relief, unclaimed benefits and savings in energy bills.
‘There has been an increase in debt problems,’ said Ms Kemp. ‘But we always say ‘no debt is unsolvable’.’
For the last year the organisation has been stepping in to help out doc-tors who are having to treat increasing numbers of people suffering because of their financial situation.
‘We are finding that a lot of people coming to us have mental health problems, and we’re trying to have a more holistic approach, working out of GP surgeries, too,’ said Ms Kemp.
‘People are seeing the doctor with social issues rather than medical ones. They are feeling stressed or depressed because of debt problems.
‘They feel they have no one else to talk to, and because of that they are taking up GP consulting time.’
The volunteer-based charity has been sending representatives into three surgeries, St Andrews in Southborough, Greggs Wood in Sherwood and Rowan Tree in Showfields.
‘In this way we can alleviate some of the stress on the NHS. Our advisers go into surgeries one day a week. This is done on a drop-in basis and by appointment.’
The scheme has proved a success, and Citizens Advice is trying to expand it into rural areas.
For initial appointments, it will continue to be based at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s Gateway premises at Fiveways from 10am-4pm.
There are also services available at Cranbrook Library, the Soup Bowl drop-in at the United Reformed Church and The Hub at the Mental Health Resources Centre in Grosvenor & Hilbert Park.
For more information, call 03448 487978 or visit www.twcab.org.uk
HERE TO HELP: The volunteers at Citizens Advice in their new office