South of Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has praised the vital work of Dumfries and Galloway Citizens Advice Service (DAGCAS) following a recent visit to the Annan branch.
He has also called for local people to consider volunteering for DAGCAS, which has three offices in the region – Annan, Dumfries and Stranraer – which continue to play a crucial role as the public face of the organisation. A significant part of its service delivery involves the need for advisors to see clients face to face to complete forms, check relevant paperwork and contact a third party on behalf of the client.
Colin Smyth met with Communication and Volunteer Development Manager, Katie Dyet and Annan Bureau Manager Brenda Waugh on his visit to the branch. He previously met with Brenda and long-time Annan volunteer Viv Edwards at a reception celebrating 80 years of Citizens Advice in the Scottish Parliament in November.
During 2018-19, DAGCAS provided a service to 7,564 people, giving advice 25,691 times, securing financial gains to the value of £9.3m and helping people to manage their debts of over £12m.
However, DAGCAS’s performance is not just about financial gains or debts managed, it is about the provision of a high quality, holistic, service given that clients present with an average of between four and seven issues.
None of this would be possible without dedicated and capable staff and volunteers who go that extra mile for our clients. DAGCAS volunteers contributed an incredible 13,000 hours to the service during 2018-19.
South of Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth said: “It was a real pleasure to visit the Annan office and hear about the vital work carried out by Brenda and her team.
“Many people still don’t realise just how vital a service Citizens Advice Scotland provide and how many different problems the organisation can help with.
“We are extremely lucky in Dumfries and Galloway to have such a brilliant local network where people can receive free, independent, confidential and impartial advice, and it is down to the hard work and dedication of staff members like Brenda and all the volunteers.
“However, DAGCAS can only continue to provide such an invaluable service if they have enough volunteers. I would urge members of the public to get in touch with their local branch and see if they can give some of their time.”
Phil Stewart, Chief Executive Officer, Dumfries and Galloway Citizens Advice Service said: “We have an incredible group of highly talented and committed staff and volunteers working throughout the region.
“They are epitomised by Brenda and Viv at Annan, who will all go that extra mile to ensure that the most vulnerable people in our region have someone, or in our case, an entire service, working with them to right the wrongs in our society.
“I am extremely proud of the outstanding work that they do in support of a thriving Dumfries and Galloway.”
Brenda Waugh, Bureau Manager, Annan
Brenda has responsibility for service delivery across Annandale and Eskdale including the outreach facilities in Moffat and Langholm.
Brenda has been an employee of DAGCAS since September 2002.
She started in Annan as a Homelessness Housing Officer in September 2002 and then moved to become the Bureau Manager in September 2008.
Brenda is the holder of the 2019 Ian King award for the person who is the glue that binds the service together.
She always makes sure a drop-in client is welcomed and told how long they might have to wait. If a client from Langholm or Moffat cannot get to Annan due to their circumstances she will do her best to make sure an outreach clinic is set up if at all possible.
For staff and volunteers she makes sure they know how much she values what they do. She arranges bi-monthly meetings with speakers and of course, homemade cake
Viv Edwards, Volunteer Adviser and Social Policy Co-ordinator, Annan
Viv was a client of the Annan Bureau in 2005 and received such helpful and useful advice that she decided this was something she could do. She said that it was her chance to work in an organisation with a reputation for giving top quality and trusted advice. She completed her training and received her certificate of competence in May 2007 and started work at the Annan bureau.
She said: “Volunteering gives me personal satisfaction, it also keeps my IT skills fresh and relevant. I was able to bring a range of interviewing and administrative skills to my role.
“I have acquired a vast range of knowledge about social policies and services through training and development. I have also learned the importance of remaining positive when dealing with people in difficult circumstances.”
She became Social Policy Co-ordinator in 2018, this gives her the opportunity to contribute to the National debate on current social issues.
If people are interested in volunteering they can contact Katie Dyet on Katie.Dyet@dagcas.org or 0300 303 4321 Ext 6108.