WOOLER residents will be able to access free legal advice in the town again at weekly Citizens Advice Bureau drop-in sessions.
The village drop-in sessions were forced to cease six months ago due to lack of funding. But Berwick Citizens Advice Bureau has now been able to reinstate the valued weekly service thanks to joint funding from The Nigel Vinson Charitable Trust, Wooler Parish Council and Northumberland County Council.
Berwick CAB, which advised 2,800 clients last year on 15 different categories of law, had provided outreach services in Belford, Seahouses and Wooler for nearly two decades. But it was unable to find replacement funds when the most recent Big Lottery five-year funding ended in April 2012.
Alnwick CAB was able to offer a half day service in Seahouses which will last until March 2013, but Wooler and Belford had to close.
“This was a great blow, especially for residents of Glendale,” said bureau manager Jennifer Hall. “Last year people from Wooler ward made up nearly 10 per cent of all new enquiries made to the bureau.”
The majority of those enquiries related to welfare benefits, tax and pension credits, but debt, employment and housing also featured heavily.
Ms Hall said: “We’re delighted that this particular service will once again be available, as people living in rural areas face additional problems accessing advice.”
She added: “We are especially grateful for the joint support of the three funders of the service.”
A spokesperson for the Nigel Vinson Charitable Trust said: “We are delighted to support the Wooler CAB as it is a highly regarded organisation that we believe can be of real help to our local community in these difficult times.”
Daljit Lally, corporate director for community services and housing at Northumberland County Council, said: “We have been very pleased to match local fund-raising to allow this key service to be reinstated for residents of Wooler – saving them from having to make a trip to Berwick or other centres for free information and advice in relation to legal, financial and other important issues.”
Wooler Parish Council has also agreed to contribute financially to safeguard this service for the next three years. The service restarted yesterday with appointments now available at sessions in the Cheviot Centre on Wednesdays.