News

They’re here to help

by
May 10, 2017

New name, same service: Cobram Support and Information Service volunteers Heather Barrie and Liz Moar, which was previously known as the Citizens Advice Bureau.

A local service run by dedicated volunteers may have undergone a name change, but it is still dedicated to providing the same service to the community.

The Citizens’ Advice Bureau is now known as the Cobram Support and Information Service and is located at the Barry Franklin Youth Services Building at 18 Pine St.

History shows the CAB has been operating in Cobram since 1981, with an office opened under the guidance of Margaret O’Kane and supported by two current volunteers, Heather Barrie and Cam Blackley.

The CAB tradition originated in the United Kingdom when war broke out in 1939; it was established as an emergency community service providing support, material aid and information for war-affected communities.

‘‘Our Cobram office is a non-for-profit organisation and completely staffed by volunteers, it provides a wide range of services that includes emergency support, information, advice and advocacy for clients seeking assistance on where to find help with personal or family matters,’’ volunteer Ross Smith said.

‘‘It also links them in social and welfare services, health services, housing and accommodation, or help with visa applications and general information.’’

The service is free, confidential and impartial and recognises people’s right to decide.

It’s funded through the Department of Social Services for the Moira and Berrigan shires, which were recognised as areas of high social disadvantage.

‘‘The Cobram Support and Information Service office is self-funded, and we rely heavily on donations from generous service clubs to to help with meeting rent and general office services,’’ Mr Smith said.

Volunteers have all completed a 50-hour community support work course, with two rostered on each shift.

At the moment, the service can only open three days a week until more people can be found and trained to volunteer.

People who wish to volunteer are urged to contact their local office.

Common issues the service sees including financial streets through underlying issues such as homelessness, accommodation, unemployment, unexpected household and utility expenses and family break-ups.

‘‘The ultimate goal is for emergency relief to be recognised and supported by the whole community as the first vital phase of welfare support, and that successfully links vulnerable people into services that provide immediate response with counselling and referral,’’ Mr Smith said.

‘‘Our main assistance to clients is through the provision of food vouchers, fuel vouchers and medication assistance to clients to help them through the difficult financial situation they face.

‘‘Listening to stories of clients with young families who are struggling to put food on the table and living on a government allowance does make the provision of welfare very important.’’

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