AN AGENCY providing valuable guidance to families and individuals facing cost-of-living challenges is urgently seeking more volunteers.
Demand for independent advice from Dumfries and Galloway Citizens Advice Service (DAGCAS) has reached record levels during the current global downturn.
The charity at present has around 60 paid staff but hopes to increase the number of volunteers from the current 30 to around 75 to help meet demand.
Full training is on offer for new volunteers who will work with the existing team from their bases located across the region and by phone and online.
Chief executive Phil Stewart said: “Recruiting additional volunteers will help us maintain and enhance the level of service we offer at a time when demand is high.
“It is interesting and varied work and an opportunity to expand knowledge and experience in a wide variety of areas, providing a useful addition to CVs for those seeking future career progression.
“Becoming a volunteer will also suit people who are retired, semi-retired or have some spare capacity in their lives and are up for a challenge.”
Mr Stewart explained that one of the fastest growth areas in casework was financial with increased food, energy bills, housing and transport costs eating into household budgets.
The DAGCAS advisors are both generalists and specialists, working full and part-time, covering areas such as benefits, consumer rights, debt, employment, court appointments, accommodation, immigration and relationships.
Latest full-year figures showed that across the region the organisation supported 8,500 clients involving 40,000 individual cases.
Clients were supported to deal with £6.5 million worth of unmanageable debt. This helped those that were in debt as well as the businesses who were owed money and were then able to get what they were owed.
Ensuring clients received benefits and allowances to which they were entitled brought in an additional £8.1 million to Dumfries and Galloway. This not only benefitted the recipient but also contributed to the wider local economy.
One long-serving volunteer adviser, Annan-based Vivienne Edwards, said: “One motivation is making a positive difference to my clients, perhaps helping facilitate more money in their bank; intervening between them and a landlord or just helping them get something off their mind.
“At a personal level, as a volunteer, I like to feel part of what is a friendly team and keep my IT and people skills up to date.”
Dumfriesshire MP David Mundell and constituency MSP Oliver Mundell, who are supportive of the recruitment drive, this week visited DAGCAS’s regional HQ in Irish Street, Dumfries and also learned more about the Annandale and Eskdale base in Bank Street, Annan.
After meeting with Mr Stewart, David Mundell said: “The work of Citizens’ Advice has been invaluable to local communities over many decades.
“This has been particularly the case during the Covid pandemic and the inflationary period which has largely resulted from the Russian attack on Ukraine.”
Oliver Mundell said: “I wish DAGCAS well with their recruitment campaign and would encourage anyone interested who has some spare time to contact Phil and his team.
“Volunteers play a pivotal part in the organisation, and I know their work is greatly appreciated by those they help.’’