LETTER: Support our Citizens Advice Bureau

Boston Labour councillors have been concerned to read that advice centres are struggling to cope with a surge in requests for help because of rising problems in claiming employment and support allowance (ESA), the new sickness and disabilities benefit.

Problems connected with ESA were the fastest-growing area of need among people who consulted a Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in the first quarter of this year, rising by 71 per cent on the same quarter last year. There was an 82 per cent rise in requests for help in mounting an appeal against a decision not to award the benefit. Around 38 per cent of appeals against a refusal of the benefit are currently being overturned in the claimant’s favour. The rise is explained in part by the fact that last April, all former incapacity benefit claimants began to be reassessed for the benefit, which was introduced for new claimants in 2008; the increase in demand for help will be linked to claimants’ lack of familiarity with the new process. Overall, requests for help with benefit claims rose by six per cent in that period, making this the largest part of the charity’s work, making up 34 per cent of all advice given by CAB.

Boston Labour Councillors are aware that Boston CAB is being stretched to capacity and are urging Boston Borough Council to give the CAB more support. This year they only received a standstill position in the budget. We don’t believe this was good enough and the council needs to give them more money in the future, as it is their Conservative Government which is putting more and more pressure on our CABs and our communities.

Boston Labour councillors