Skyes the Limit teams are raising money for two local charities who have been adversely affected by the pandemic. Event organiser, Sam Crowe, finds out a bit more about the Skye and Lochalsh Citizen's Advice Bureau (SLCAB), by speaking to founder and manager Morag Hannah.
I started by asking Mo, what work do the SLCAB do? "We are here to offer free, independent, confidential and impartial advice to the residents of Skye & Lochalsh. Our aims are to ensure that individuals do not suffer through lack of knowledge of their rights and responsibilities. The majority of our advice team are volunteers. All of our team are based in the local community, so they understand the area and its people very well"
What sorts of things do residents come to you for advice on? "The number of issues we deal with is vast; including benefit claims and appeals, debt and money advice, discrimination, work related problems, housing, immigration and consumer issues. If we can’t provide you with all the help you need, we don’t just wash our hands of you – we will find out who can help you, and we’ll give you every assistance in contacting them with your problem. But in general, most of the problems we face relate to financial issues and enquiries related to the workplace or the home. In terms of our most common issues, the ‘big three’ are regarding welfare benefits, debt and employment. For example, with debt clients, it doesn’t matter how much you owe, we won’t make any judgements. We’ll sit you down, go through your paperwork – bank statements, final demands etc. and come up with a plan that is designed just for you, because everyone’s situation is unique. There may be some financial help that is available to you that you don’t know about – we will investigate that. We will also negotiate with your creditors on your behalf, and persuade them to accept a realistic payment plan. That will allow you some breathing space, and often we can even stop them charging interest to make your debts even bigger"
We are seeing that the pandemic has had a huge impact on the finances of local people, particularly those in the Tourism Industry. Have the CAB had many calls in relation to this? "People in Skye & Lochalsh are continuing to suffer huge financial problems in the wake of the pandemic. Our own official statistics from 1 April 2020 to 31 January 2021 show that SLCAB handled 3600 client contacts, covering 3831 advice topics, which is remarkable"
Has this work been been a challenge, due to the office closure? "We worked fast in order to get everyone working remotely and without disruption to our existing services. Since the pandemic, our advisers assisted with debts totaling £825,769. And the total amount of money CAB staff re-gained for their clients here in Skye & Lochalsh was nearly £811,585. These figures show two things: they show that local people are really suffering the impact of the pandemic. And they also show that we at SLCAB have been doing great work in helping them cope. I am very proud of the work our team do, many of our staff have been volunteering a full day a week for years now, never wavering in their commitment to the charity, despite all the challenges that have arisen"
This is a great local service, how does this fit alongside the overarching CAB charity? "Skye & Lochalsh Citizens Advice Bureau (SLCAB) is an independent local charity that is a member of Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS.) Despite being a member of CAS, each CAB is completely independent and responsible for raising its own funds"
That level of fundraising must present a challenge, how will the 'Skyes the Limit' fundraising efforts help? "SLCAB service is free of charge when you use it. Even though many of our staff are volunteers, it still costs money to deliver a high-quality service. Any funds raised by Skye’s the Limit 2 will go towards the purchasing of IT equipment to set up volunteer remote working"
If anyone needs to get some help and advice just now, how should they go about it? "There are lots of ways to get in touch, via phone or email, we can even arrange a virtual 'face to face' appointment:
Opening hours and contact details:
Advice Line: 01478 612032
Monday: 10-1, 2-4.30pm
Tuesday: 10-1, 2-4.30pm
Thursday: 10-1, 2-4.30pm
Virtual Appointments also available via Zoom, Teams and NearMe.