CLIENTS of East Ayrshire Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) were collectively £4.7m better off last year.

More than 3,000 people were helped at their offices with state benefits the most prevalent issue dealt with during 2017/18.

Offices and outreach facilities at Cumnock, Dalmellington, Muirkirk, New Cumnock, Patna and Drongan were kept busy throughout.

Welfare reform had a major impact with the introduction of Universal Credit affecting people with ill health and disabilities the worst.

CAB manager, Sarah Hammond, said: “This has been the most challenging year I have experienced in my role.

“We have moved into digital recording and reporting while retaining the necessary face-to-face advice and support to the people of Cumnock and Doon Valley.

“This assists them to contend with one of the biggest changes provided by the new welfare reforms ­— Full Service Universal Credit.

“During the operational year, East Ayrshire CAB achieved client financial gains in excess of £4.7m and provided advice 13,495 times of which 56 per cent was in respect of benefits ­— an increase of four per cent on last year.

“Activity in both Cumnock and outreach locations remains high and alternative accommodation for Cumnock remains a key strategic priority.”

Queries and requests for advice on benefits made up the majority of East Ayrshire CAB’s workload with 7,604 passing through their doors.

Of the remaining 5,890 matters dealt with, debt was the second most frequent followed, in order, by legal proceedings, housing, tax and employment.

Other issues included utilities/communications, travel/transport/holidays, consumer, health/community care and relationships.

Chairwoman, Karen Dawson, said: “Just looking at the statistical data re-enforces our belief that our service is absolutely essential to the well-being of our community.

“Partnership working and positive engagement with our stakeholders is fundamental to our day-to-day business, future plans and vision for East Ayrshire.

“This is an East Ayrshire where people as citizens and consumers are empowered and their rights are respected.”