Money invested in advice service pays dividends as it creates a huge increase in benefits payments
An advice service for those struggling with benefits and debt problems in parts of Barnsley has clawed in £42 for every pound councillors have invested in the scheme recently – double the target expected by those providing the help.
Several similar schemes are operated across Barnsley by Area Councils, localised bodies made up of councillors with their own budget from Barnsley Council to spend on issues of local importance.
The North Area Council, which represents communities in the Old Town, St Helen’s, Darton East and West wards, has been operating an advice service since 2015 and since then the overall payback in extra benefits paid out to those seeking help has worked out at £24 for each pound put into the project.
But latest figures show a huge leap, to £42, from the service, jointly operated by charities Citizens Advice Bureau and DIAL, which hold regular advice surgeries across the district.
CAB spokesman David Handy told councillors: “As an investment return, that is a brilliant figure. In normal circumstances I would aim for £20 plus and to get £42 is tremendous.
Since the service was established, 4,736 people have been given assistance, mainly for benefit claims and debt, but also for other issues such as housing.
Advice given has resulted in an additional £7.3m in welfare benefits being claimed by people who were eligible but were not getting the payments they deserved.
Advisors have also helped people to deal with debts totalling almost £1m.
Coun Phillip Lofts said: “It is a shame the state doesn’t make people aware of the benefits they are entitled to.”