The benefits of a service to provide East Lothian residents with free, impartial advice on issues such as income maximisation and debt have been highlighted in a new report.

The East Lothian Advice Consortium (ELAC) is a single ‘gateway’ to advice for the range of financial issues and problems that individuals and families may experience. 

ELAC, which is a partnership between Haddington Citizen Advice Bureau and Musselburgh Citizen Advice Bureau, outlines a number of highlights in its annual report including:

  • 2351 clients accessed the service, with 1313 being new clients
  • £3.3m in financial gains were achieved for 689 clients
  • people had their income increased from benefits by a total of £2.27 million

In addition, 449 clients were helped with money advice and a total of just under £2m in total debt was handled for new cases in 2020/21.

Musselburgh CAB joined Haddington CAB in achieving accreditation for Scottish National Standards for Information and Advice.  Musselburgh CAB also ran a campaign with the aim of reducing child poverty.

The Annual report includes powerful cases studies highlighting the support given to vulnerable people seeking benefits and income maximisation advice and debt advice, which has been particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While offices were closed, CAB services were delivered in different ways from the traditional face-to-face methods, with more use of digital and telephone services. Limited face-to-face services have reopened recently for vulnerable clients who have difficulty with other methods of contact.

Value of services

Council Leader Norman Hampshire said:

“ELAC’s annual report underlines the value of its vital services, which have helped many people in East Lothian address financial hardship during a particularly difficult period.

“Financial inclusion is an important strand of East Lothian Council’s recently-agreed Poverty Plan, which sets out clear and detailed actions to address and alleviate the impacts of poverty.

“The work of ELAC plays a key role in providing support and advice to help people requiring advice and support.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the consortium, and all involved in Haddington and Musselburgh bureau, for their tremendous work.

Successful year

Sarah Matthews, Louise Marongiu and Gayle Bell - Chief Officers at Musselburgh and Haddington CAB - jointly commented:

“We’re very pleased to present to you the Annual Report for 2020/21 which is intended to offer an effective summary of our performance over the past year.  2020/21 has been a challenging but successful year with ongoing implications of the Covid restrictions.

“Working in collaboration has been essential over the last year. This will continue, to ensure we provide the independent advice our clients need and subsequently support the community to rebuild more resilient, fairer, healthier and stronger. 

“The teams have been able to manage uncertainty whilst continuing to deliver an excellent service to our clients. Without doubt, that has been largely down to the commitment and sheer determination of the staff and volunteers

“We would like to thank the staff and the volunteers for continuing to deliver an excellent service to our local community and to our partners for supporting the change the service brings to society.

“We would also like to encourage new volunteers to come forward in order to support face-to-face advice and deliver phone and online services – this is rewarding work which gives people the opportunity to make a real and significant difference. In addition both CAB are also recruiting for volunteer Board Members providing an opportunity to be involved in governance of charities.”

The ELAC annual report is available to read in East Lothian Council’s Members’ Library.

Published: Thursday, 25th November 2021