VOLUNTEERS at East Renfrewshire’s Citizens Advice Bureau have been praised for their “extraordinary work.”

The team at the Barrhead-based service was commended by bureau manager Teresa O’Hara in an annual report.

Ms O’Hara told the audience at the group’s AGM, which included councillors and the region’s MP Paul Masterton, that ER CAB has helped more than 7,000 clients achieve £3.2 million in financial gains over the past year.

Of that amount, £2.7m is attributable to benefits – a return of £17 for every £1 invested in ER CAB.

Other headline figures to emerge at the AGM included a 79 per cent benefit appeal success rate, a total of 89 evictions being prevented and the representation of 119 homelessness appeals.

In addition, a total of 186 veterans were given access to benefits totalling more than £360,000.

The ER CAB team also achieved successful outcomes in more than 100 employment cases.

Ms O’Hara said: “East Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau has again seen some extraordinary work and outstanding achievements this year carried out by the volunteers, staff and projects staff with our work within the local community.

“The ‘big five’ problems for our clients remain the same – benefits and tax credits; employment; housing; relationships and family; and debt.

“It is easy to see how many of these problems are inter-related but it may be that the impact of continuing austerity is now affecting more parts of people’s lives.

“In addressing this, it is helpful that our advisers are skilled in identifying when people have multiple problems.

“In 2016/17, our 42 volunteers dedicated 8,424 hours to the bureau. The estimated value of their work equates to £127,000 being added to our annual wage bill.”

Ms O’Hara also stressed that challenging times lie ahead for the ER CAB team.

She added: “In the current economic climate, we are seeing more and more people with difficulties managing their limited income to pay for essential items such as rent.

“The number of referrals we made to the foodbank during the year increased by 21 per cent over the previous year.”

For advice, contact ER CAB on 0141 881 2032 or visit the office in Barrhead’s Main Street, which is open Monday to Friday, between 9.30am and 3.30pm.