The ‘Westminster Chronicle’ reports;
“Changes to benefit payments and a lack of jobs has created a surge of calls to citizen’s advice bureau across west London.
The number of enquiries in Westminster rocketed by 44 per cent to 26,000 in the last year and in Fulham to 27,000, an increase of 29 per cent.
The organisations, which offer free financial advice, are also struggling to find enough volunteers to cope with the increased demand.
They say the cause is the introduction of the welfare reforms and the looming roll-out of universal credit, the new single benefit payment.
Shirley Springer, chief executive of Westminster Citizen’s Advice Bureau, said that organisations were having to work together more closely to deal with demand.
She said: “This increase is a result of the impact of the government’s welfare reform programme, together with the recent reduction in legal aid funding for specialist advice.
“We are trying to recruit more volunteers to help us because we just cannot meet demand,” Ms Springer added.
As a response to the need for more funding, Westminster Council has awarded an advice services contract to Westminster CAB, to help support services.
A large share of enquiries were about state benefits, debt and finance, and the number of people seeking advice relating to housing and homelessness has doubled.
Simi Ryatt, chief executive of the Hammersmith and Fulham branch, said that the UK economic gloom which began in 2008 was also partly to blame.
She said: “It is a serious amount of work for us to deal with and the recession hasn’t helped.
“A lot of policy changes have impacted on people’s financial situations and there are big pockets of deprivation in Hammersmith and Fulham.
“One of the things we are helping people with is financial capability work, budgeting and finding energy efficiencies. It’s about being preventative as well as helping.”