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Advice bureau under pressure

MORE than 13,000 people – 9,144 of them new clients – turned to Maidstone Citizen’s Advice Bureau for help in the year to April. Kent’s largest CAB saw slightly fewer people than the previous year, but the bureau found the number and com- plexity of problems – some 56,000 – increased. The most common involved benefits and tax credits (34%); debt (18%); relationships (11%); legal (10%); and em- ployment and housing (9% each). Other problems were with consumer goods and serv- ices, education, health, immi- gration, tax and utilities. It follows an equally difficult financial year for the CAB in

Jobs support THE harsh economic climate meant there was no fall in the number of clients approaching the CAB with issues regarding dismissals and wages. Employment adviser Tania

Weber said: “So far this year, we have obtained about £150,000 compensation for our clients, as well as enabling the reinstatement or retention of several others. “The number of women dis- missed appears to have in- creased this year, and a worrying proportion have been dismissedwhile pregnant or on maternity leave, which suggests some employers are discriminating against them.”

Sporting success INVICTA Grammar School head boy, James Evans, has been selected for the U19 Eng- land squash squad and is in training for the world champi- onships next summer. The school’s U16 netball

team played their first Maid- stone Schools league game against St Simon Stock School, and won 34-4.

Governor plea SWINGATE Primary School at Lordswood, Chatham, is look- ing for another school governor to join as a co-opted member, with a view to taking on the re- sponsibilities of vice-chairman. For more details, email of-

Green lessons MAIDSTONE Grammar School has applied to install solar pan- els and three “monodraught” wind catchers. Maidstone Council will determine the planning application.

Have a heart MORE than £1,150 was raised when Invicta Grammar School- studentswere invited to wear a heart in support of the British Heart Foundation.

Maidstone, which faced a major cut in funding that led to redundancies and reduced hours for some paid staff. Only a lottery grant will

allow it to maintain a small highly-specialised advice team for borough residents in the key areas of debt management, ben- efits, employment and housing. In the meantime, the lottery transition money, which lasts two years, will be used to give further specialist training to all volunteer frontline staff. CAB also receives a core grant from Maidstone Council. Chief executive Bonny Mal-

hotra said: “We will want to keep our specialist salaried team, but we will have to look elsewhere for the money.”

Gateway centre, according to the CAB’s annual report, and for this, chairman Sir Michael Buckley praised the bureau team. He said: “Of clients surveyed,

97% said they were happy with the service they received [3% did not respond]; simi- larly, 97% that they would rec- ommend the bureau to others [3% did not respond]. “This is strong testimony to

BonnyMalhotra Advisors offered more help

last year to people at home, at outreach posts and by placing assessors at the Maidstone

Benefit changes hit home

IN the last financial year,Maid- stone CAB saw a huge increase in clients needing advice. A lot of this involved em- ployment and support al- lowances, following the radical shake-up of the benefit system. “The introduction of univer-

sal credit and personal inde- pendence payments will no doubt only increase the num- bers of clients accessing our service for advice as these ben- efits are introduced,” the CAB reported at its annual meeting. “As people’s in- and out-of-

work benefits are stopped, re- duced and/or frozen, this will have a knock-on effect and

many people will find they are unable to meet their weekly living expenditure. “This will mean that the bu-

reau will see an increase in en- quiries relating to debt and housing issues. “The introduction of the bed-

room tax and reduction to the amount of help people can re- ceive towards their council tax has already brought a lot of people to our service, con- cerned that they will not be able to pay their rent, be evicted, or that they will be taken to court for council tax arrears.”

the skill and dedication with which the staff of the bureau do their work, the trustee board, and I pay tribute to them.” Mr Malhotra added: “As long

as we have volunteers working at the CAB we will always have an open door for those who do not know where to turn.”

Help in figures In the year to April 2013, every week:

 289.55 hours were spent by CAB advisers helping clients;

 256 clients (or 51 a day) were seen;

 156.64 hours were spent on face-to-face client work;

 41.22 hours were spent advising clients on the phone;

 Advisers needed 65.43 hours to write up casework.

If you would like to become a CAB advisor, call 01622 750770.

MP joins visitors at KIMS open day

HELEN Grant was among visitors to the new Kent Institute of Medi- cine and Surgery when it opened its doors tothe public for two days.

The MP for Maidstone and The

Weald visited the construction site for KIMS, which aims to bring in- novative treatments to Kent, where she met developers. She said: “Construction is about

morethanmudandboots. Thesec- torprovidesawide spectrum of op- portunities to young people and I amkeen to support the industry in theirefforts,andparticularly those aimed at enticing women into the STEM (science, technology, engi- neering and maths) subjects. “I verymuchlook forward tosee-

ing KIMS open and I knowthatmy constituents will benefit from the

MP Helen Grant with other visitors at the KIMS open day

innovative treatments it will pro- vide”. The KIMS site, off Bearsted

Road near J7 of the M20, was opened to the public as part of an

Quit smoking at NHS club SMOKERS wanting to kick the habit are in- vited to come along to a free NHS quit club. The seven-week club runs from 6-7pm on

Wednesdays, from November 6 to December 18, and meets at Maidstone YMCA Centre, Melrose Close, Maidstone. Call 0800 849 4444 for more details, or text QUIT to 87023.

“Open Doors” weekend, aimed at opening up the construction in- dustry to the public to create an understanding and to inspire youngpeople towork inthesector.

Pupils in line for art prize SEVEN students from Invicta Grammar School have been shortlisted in the Art Prize for Schools Competition. The competition was run in collaboration with

The Saatchi Gallery and The Sunday Times. The work by Lydia Ross, Katie Driver, Hannah Bussey, Jenny Ford, Cara Birchall, Eleanor Spilker and Molly Baker can be seen at

Visit Downs Mail’s website — East 21

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