The Citizens Advice network has claimed the organisation helped thousands of Scots make “simply staggering” gains worth an average of £4400 since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The “life-changing” help was detailed in a new report that showed 171,000 Scots have asked for help since March 2020.
The report was released as the cost-of-living crisis continues to hit household finances across the country.
It stated: “Around one in five people who have come to the Citizens Advice network in Scotland for help have made some sort of gain.
“The average financial value of these gains is over £4400.”
As well as “direct cash in people’s pockets” – for example by helping them claim all benefits they are entitled to – this also includes benefits in kind, such free school uniforms.
As well as those who visited or spoke to one of the 59 local Citizen Advice Bureauxs across Scotland, a further 2.5 million people have visited the organisation’s website for advice since the start of pandemic.
The report added that nine out of 10 adults in Scotland have heard of Citizens Advice – with almost one-third having used the service at least once.
Meanwhile external analysis from Europe Economics found that the organisation’s advice was worth up to £245m in net gains for Scottish society.
The report said: “This is not just money unlocked for people through social security payments, employment entitlements and debt reductions, but also wider savings for Scottish society.
“When someone gets advice from a CAB and has their problem solved, they avoid further adverse consequences. For example, someone who has their income maximised and no longer has to choose between heating their home and buying food avoids the ill health consequences as a result.”
Speaking as the report was published, Citizens Advice Scotland chief executive Derek Mitchell said: “As the country faces the worst cost-of-living crisis in living memory, the Citizens Advice network is here to with free, impartial and confidential advice and information.
“CABs across the country are essential community services, delivering life-changing results for the people they help.
“The fact that average gains for those who see a financial benefit from our advice is £4400 is simply staggering.”
He added: “People are going to really struggle in the months ahead, and it’s important to understand that the challenges people face will be complex.
“While the soaring cost of energy is driving this crisis, costs are going up everywhere, and met with flat or falling incomes at the same time, people won’t just need help with one issue but will be dealing with multiple problems.
“That’s where CABs excel. They are a wraparound service and deal with the person’s full range of issues. They don’t just try and solve one problem and ignore the rest. People can get advice in a way that suits them best – be that in person, over the phone and online.
“Giving people that choice is vital, some people just want a phone number to ring or clear advice to read, but for vulnerable clients and complex cases there’s no substitute for face-to-face advice.
“These are all local charities, organised to best suit the needs of their local communities. The advice is free, confidential and impartial, and our advisers treat everyone with empathy and understanding. We don’t judge, we just help.”
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