Mid Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureau has seen a ‘marked increase’ in the number of people visiting the service with mental health issues, its AGM heard.
According to the service, the number of people with poor mental health needing help with benefit claims rose from 46 per cent in 2014/15 to 56 per cent in 2016/17.
The service recently began to record the figures due to the rising numbers and in March held workshops for staff and volunteers to help them deal with clients who appear to be in crisis.
“We have seen a marked increase in the number of clients who have issues such as alcohol or drug addiction, depression, anxiety, even Asperger’s or schizophrenia,” said Carol Eagles, manager of Stowmarket CAB.
“It is often as a last resort they come to us after trying other avenues for help. The issue for our staff and volunteers is the difficulty posed by supporting people in crisis.
“We can either refer them back to agencies they have already tried or try to help ourselves, which puts extra demand on our resources.
“There is simply a lack of a proper support system out there and sadly, we do see quite a few clients who have suicidal feelings.”
Councillors, volunteers and members heard at the CAB’s AGM last week, it saw 3,244 people seeking advice during 2016/17, an increase of 12 per cent on 2015/16.
It achieved over £1 million in financial gains for clients through benefit claims, employment negotiations, consumer refunds, charitable support, and helped manage more than £1.6 million of debt through bankruptcies, debt relief orders, IVAs and debt management plans .
The service also reported a rise in the number of referrals to Stowmarket foodbank, rising from 114 in 2013-2014, to 178 in 2014-2015 and 191 in 2015-2016. The number of people referred since April this year is 103.
“Some of these also include clients with mental health issues who have not taken their medication because they need to take it with food, which they do not have the money to buy,” added Carole Eagles.
“I have heard similar stories from other bureaux and with Universal Credit going fully live in February, we expect things to get a lot worse.
During the 2016/17 period, 48 Mid Suffolk CAB volunteers contributed around 19,250 hours of work, estimated to be worth around £357,000.