AN innovative partnership has helped hundreds of Barnsley residents unlock ‘vital’ additional income during the cost-of-living crisis which has impacted thousands in the town.

The partnership, between Citizens’ Advice Barnsley and Yorkshire Building Society, offers impartial advice on a host of issues including struggles with finances.

Based on Cheapside for three days a week in the town centre, almost 800 Barnsley residents have secured an hour-long, free appointment since a pilot started in the height of the pandemic in May 2021.

Susan Allen, chief executive of Yorkshire Building Society, said: “Our purpose is to provide real help with real life and that’s exactly what our partnership with Citizens’ Advice does.

“We are incredibly proud of the impact that this service has had on thousands of people across the UK in its first three years.

“Through this partnership we’ve helped to make impartial and independent advice even more accessible in our communities and it has had a real impact.”

The town’s six area councils whose councillors have commissioned Citizens’ Advice Barnsley to host drop-ins in their respective villages have all reported success with the service.

The North Area Council alone which is responsible for commissioning community-led interventions in Darton East, Darton West, Old Town and St Helen’s wards through its devolved budget generated an £11.8m gain in benefits and residents’ debt of £1.7m being managed.

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It’s also been used as a sign-posting service for cost-of-living offers from the council such as rent and council tax as well as foodbank support.

Figures show 9,923 ‘emergency’ food parcels which can offer up to a week’s worth of supplies in worst-case scenarios were handed out to people in need across the Trussell Trust’s 13 locations in Barnsley in the year to March.

Jo Clark, chief officer at Citizens’ Advice Barnsley, added: “This year we’ve seen many households reach out to us for support for a huge range of issues.

“That’s why our partnership with Yorkshire Building Society is so important in helping us to increase the support that we can offer to people in need in our local communities.

“As a local, independent advice charity, it is our mission to ensure people have the knowledge and confidence they need to find their way forward, whoever they are and whatever their problem.”

Stephanie Peacock Labour’s candidate in the Barnsley South constituency praised charities for helping voids which she blamed on the government.

“Families who were struggling before the cost-of-living crisis are unable to cut costs any more than they already have.

“Charities and local groups do incredible work to support their communities but this isn’t their mess to fix.

“Families in Barnsley and across the country are struggling under the strain.

“With more than 15,000 children living in poverty in Barnsley and foodbanks reporting that rise in children needing food parcels, the work is vital in our community.

“In Barnsley East, 25 per cent of under-15s live in poverty a shocking statistic and a quarter of children in our local area are growing up in poverty.

“Families who were struggling before the cost-of-living crisis are unable to cut costs any more than they already have.”