Gordon Rural Action gains £3.26m for clients

Laura Craig, Sarah Flavell, Mark Strachan and Suzanne Rhind at the Ellon office
Laura Craig, Sarah Flavell, Mark Strachan and Suzanne Rhind at the Ellon office

In the 12 months to the end of March 2018, Gordon Rural Action’s advisers helped nearly 2,000 new clients achieve a staggering £3.26m in client financial gain.

This is a significant increase in client financial gain from the previous year and illustrates how hard advisers are working to assist local people.

This means that for every £1 GRA spends on delivering services, they have gained over £9 for their clients. Alongside this GRA have issued 200 foodbank vouchers to people in need and made 100 home visits to those who are unable to leave their home.

Visitors to the centres, which can be accessed in Huntly, Inverurie and Ellon, have sought help in dealing with 23,809 problems ranging from benefits entitlement, welfare rights and employment to housing, consumer rights, debt management, evictions and bankruptcy.

A key trend that has been identified by advisors during the year is that clients are often attending with more complicated and challenging issues, which increases the time spent per client.

Gordon Rural Action which has its base at 55 Gordon Street, Huntly, is now preparing for the rollout of Universal Credit to Job Centres in Aberdeenshire which is scheduled to commence from the end of June and will involve new claimants across the north-east.

Gordon Rural Action’s Chief Officer, Suzanne Rhind said: “Our year-end statistics underline the continuing need for GRA’s services. We expect that the imminent introduction of Universal Credit will see many more people needing advice and help.

"People don’t always know that help is available and often seek advice when the situation has reached crisis point. We want to encourage people who are experiencing difficulties to get in touch before things get out of hand.

"We have specialist advisers to help with housing issues, eviction, debt and benefit appeals. If people seek advice early, more serious problems can be avoided with help from one of our experienced front-line advisers."

GRA employs a small number of advice workers, but their services depend on the support of a dedicated team of volunteer advisers and reception staff and they are always looking for new volunteers to join their busy team.

Its Senior Money Adviser is approved by the accountant in bankruptcy to prepare and submit applications for the debt arrangement scheme and sequestration. Gordon Rural Action’s in-court team offer advice and representation to clients threatened with eviction and mortgage repossession.

To support this vital work, GRA operates a social enterprise business comprising Bargain Box in Huntly and Review in Inverurie. Income from the charity shops is crucial to the continuation of GRA services but it also receives funding from Aberdeenshire Council, the Scottish Legal Aid Board and well as individual donations and support from local businesses, trusts and other organisations.