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By IH Wednesday 31 October 2012 Updated: 21/12 08:44
AN AFFLUENT veneer is hiding real hardship in Stratford.
That is the message from the town's Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) which has helped more people than ever in the past year at its Meer Street office.
The charity, which relies heavily on volunteers to dispense free, impartial and confidential advice on a huge range of topics, helped over 5,000 clients in the past year with 14,500 different issues. Of those 5,000 related to welfare benefit and 1,500 to employment, a high percentage of which regarded redundancy.
Bureau manager Sue Green, speaking at the charity's AGM, said: "Many assume that relatively affluent communities like Stratford are almost immune to the fiscal pressures of a prolonged recession. They only see a throng of tourists and bustling activity in the High Street, but this sadly this masks a very real problem.
"There is genuine hardship here - the number of vulnerable people needing help from us due to money problems has more than doubled over the past two years. In fact, over the past 12 months or so we have handled £5 million worth of debt for our clients but in the process we've managed to save 76 households from homelessness.
"But we don't only pick up the pieces and help people get back on their feet. We're being pro-active in helping our clients be better prepared for the challenges that face them and some 1,300 people have had financial capability training from us in the past year.
"We hope that future funding can be secured to allow this pre-emptive, educational approach to become a regular feature of our armoury."
The news comes soon after calls were made by town leaders for the launch of a Food Bank to help relieve 'hidden hunger' in the district.
In August The Observer exclusively revealed Holy Trinity Church was investigating the possibility of setting up a food aid scheme after shocking statistics revealed over 2,000 households in the area were living in poverty, as defined by the government, and were struggling to get enough to eat.
To contact Stratford CAB visit http://.stratforduponavoncab.org.uk/ or call 0844 855 2322.
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