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As we head into the festive period please remember you can get support locally to become Better Off

Posted on 7 Dec 2022

Anyone living in the Three Towns or Arran who is worried about debt, spiralling energy costs and benefits can get free and independent advice.

Winter is a worrying time for many people as bills for heating homes spike, and financial pressures mount in the run up to Christmas.

The team at Better Off North Ayrshire – a service for people living in Ardrossan, Saltcoats, Stevenston and Arran – can help you to get a handle on your finances.

The confidential service helps clients see which benefits they are entitled to and apply for them. The team can also help people to apply for jobs, advise on housing matters and get digital support.

Based in Ardrossan, the service is open to all Three Towns and Arran residents aged 16 and over and its key workers and advisers provide free, independent advice and support with personal finances.

Andrea Gibson, Senior Key Worker and Adviser said: “We support people by doing a holistic needs assessment. We ask them some questions surrounding their finances – how well do they think they manage their money, do they plan ahead for the future, and if they want to learn new skills with a view to moving into work, or getting a better job”.

“From that conversation we prioritise needs and provide a package of supports through our own advisers and our partner agencies.”

Partners working with Better Off North Ayrshire include: Citrus Energy’s Lemon Aid, for help with energy costs; CEIS; We Work For Families and NAC Equal – for help with skills for work - and the Community Link Workers, for help with health and wellbeing concerns.

One way people can get help with urgent matters is by popping into a drop-in session at the Ardrossan hub from Tuesday to Thursday between 10am and 2pm

Adviser Coral Johnstone is the first point of contact for people who visit the busy hub.

Explaining how she helps clients, Coral said: “This could be assisting with making phone calls that people just don’t feel comfortable enough to do on their own, whether that be to your doctor or benefits centre.

“We can also do benefits checks, better-off calculations and apply for some benefits there and then.”

One example of a client the team has helped recently is a visually-impaired woman who was assisted in applying for a disability rail card, which has allowed her to travel further afield than previously to visit family.

They also helped a housebound wheelchair user who has mental health issues to get a £1500 overpayment refund from his energy supplier, as well as a £500 refund of overpaid rent from his landlord.

Councillor Margaret Johnson, North Ayrshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, said: “The services and advice offered by Better Off North Ayrshire will genuinely help people as we navigate our way through the Cost-of-living crisis.

“I would advise anyone who is struggling with debt or worried about household energy bills to pick up the phone and speak to an adviser or go along to the drop-in. This initial contact could very well lead to more income from benefits or help you manage your finances better.”

You will find the drop-in sessions at the Michael Lynch Centre, 71 Princes Street, Ardrossan, and you can contact the Better Off team by emailing betteroffna@chap.org.uk or calling 0300 002 0002.

There is Cost-of-living information about energy bills, finance, benefits and more on the Council’s site at www.north-ayrshire.gov.uk/cost-of-living