A FREE Morpeth advice centre has doubled its opening times to meet soaring demand.
The DAWN Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in Oldgate has been inundated with requests for help over the last month as people struggle to cope in the tough economic climate.
The service usually sees a spike in demand in January as Christmas bills start to arrive, but this year the problems have been exacerbated by the high unemployment rates.
Now the Morpeth branch has taken the decision to increase its hours to enable it to help as many people as possible.
DAWN Advice Chief Executive Liz Chadwick said: “We are pleased to confirm that the CAB will be opening for twice as long — pleased in that it will provide an invaluable service to even more people who need it.
“However, it is an unfortunate sign of the times that free, impartial advice is so highly sought-after.
“We see this pattern every year in late January when credit card bills from Christmas start landing on people’s doormats and the reality of Christmas overspending starts to hit home. The problems this year are exacerbated by ongoing high unemployment rates.
“Luckily, more help is at hand than ever before and I urge people struggling with post-Christmas debt to seek advice as quickly as possible.”
The introduction of extra opening hours coincides with the installation of new signage at the bureau, thanks to donations from St George’s United Reformed Church and Widdrington Village Parish Council.
It is hoped that the new roundel sign will make the office easier to find for people from outside Morpeth as it also draws in clients from across the county, including Ashington and Ponteland.
Ms Chadwick said: “The new signage is fantastic.
“We have needed it for some time as people from outside Morpeth found it difficult to find the office, but now it can be spotted from right the way along the high street.
“We are very grateful for the donations that have allowed this to happen.”
The service provides free, impartial debt and legal advice on a wide range of issues. There is face-to-face support at the office in Morpeth’s Tower Buildings from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.
People can also speak to CAB advisers through the Northumberland Single Telephone Advice Line on 0844 411 1309.