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Citizens Advice Sunderland information bus

Using funding from British Gas Energy Trust, Citizens Advice Sunderland have launched advice on wheels to reach the most in need people in their community.

The idea for the bus came from their experience of the Post Office Pop-ups , after seeing 280 people at three pop-up events last October, November and December.

Denise Irving Chief Officer at CA Sunderland said: “The idea for the bus stemmed purely from the Post Office pop-ups where we proved popular with people who would never have called into our offices but did need our help.  There are a lot of reasons why people don’t seek help and we are worried about the ones who may be sitting in silence needlessly suffering.”

Denise said: “The support we’ve received as a result has been amazing.  The Councillors we spoke to feel that the service is much needed and will raise the profile of fuel poverty and the cost of living crisis. I was contacted by one of our Council Officers and asked to present the aims of the bus.  After completing the presentation, we were advised that they wanted to support the project and asked what else we needed. The Council also put us in touch with MacMillan who are also keen to join us on the bus to support anyone who has cancer.

“The Illegal Money Lending Team are also keen to join us regularly as it allows them access to people who approach us for help and we have seen a sharp rise in the number of people looking to loan sharks for support day to day living expenses such as energy costs, so it makes perfect sense that they tag along.

“We have also been in discussions with a number of schools who would like us to be onsite during drop off and collection times as many children are affected  and the schools are keen to support their families as much as possible.

“We have also agreed to work with the foodbank to keep a number of emergency food parcels on the bus where they can advise people without access to transport to pop along and pick them up.

“It’s almost like a full circle for us as we find ourselves very much back to our roots where the Citizens Advice service started with a horse box and drove around to hand out blankets and other emergency supplies.

“BGET has been a huge support in building our resilience and capacity. Our energy services are purely as a result of  BGET and the difference it has made in our local  community is massive. The project has supported our ability to build relationships with our community, stakeholders and local council.”