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Debt advisers win a lottery; pounds 500k funds will prevent job losses.

Byline: RUTH LAWSON

A TYNESIDE advice service facing an uncertain future has been thrown a lifeline thanks to a half-million pound grant.

Gateshead Citizen's Advice Bureau (GCAB), along with others throughout the region, have been hard-hit by recent cuts from both central Government and local councils, but they have received a timely boost in funding as part of the Big Lottery Fund's Reaching Communities programme.

With their services hanging in the balance, staff at the bureau are now looking ahead to a more positive outlook, with all the money being pumped into it's Young People's Service.

Margaret Ennis, service delivery manager at GCAB, said: "We would have had great difficulty to continue this project without this money because we rely on funding."

The pounds 498,518 grant, which will be spread out over five years, has gone a long way to secure GCAB's future in the wake of the cuts imposed on the vital service.

Margaret said: "Initially we were facing a loss of 70% from our budget, but then the government changed its mind about funding face-to-face debt advice so it's nowhere near as bad as it was.

"But what has really put us on the road to recovery was this funding.

"We are hoping we won't have to make to many people redundant and are looking at things like reduced hours.

"And we're aiming to keep providing the core services that we have always offered."

All the extra cash will go towards continuing the ongoing work that GCAB offer to Gateshead's younger generation.

Margaret explained: "We made an application to the Big Lottery Fund based on the fact we had been running a Young People's Service since 2008 and funding was coming to an end so we wanted to continue the work we had already done.

"And up until we got this money we assisted young people who faced all sorts of barriers in the Gateshead area to gain nearly half a million pounds in benefit payments."

The grant will allow GCAB to reach out to those who are troubled by issues such as debt and homelessness, concerns about sexual health, domestic abuse and mental health problems.

"Our aim is to have reached about 250,000 young people over the five year period and we aim to ensure they have the increased skills to access the financial services available to them," added Margaret. The plan for the team is now to hire three members of staff to co-ordinate the project, which will initially see them reaching out to their young clients to see what things they would like to see on offer.

"The Big Lottery Fund has given us a fantastic opportunity to explore this further and make a real difference in the community."
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 26, 2011
Words:456
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