AN AYRSHIRE charity which helps people with housing, welfare and debt advice has highlighted a “worrying increase” in the number of residents seeking support during the current cost of living crisis.

The surge in demand for information and assistance from CHAP - based in Ardrossan and with a recently-launched community hub in Kilwinning - has meant the charity faced more than triple the number of requests compared to the same period last year.

Debbie Alexander, CEO, said: “There are many reasons behind this worrying increase. The cost of living; hikes in energy and fuel costs in particular, are the main driver but anyone who may have been ignoring rising debt during the pandemic eviction ban may be finding things now catching up with them.

“Sadly, we are seeing an increasing number of very worried people. It’s no longer a worry about buying new shoes or school uniforms; in an unfortunate number of cases, it’s ‘will I be able to keep a roof over my family’s head?’.”

The charity reports a definite advantage from having taken its mix of debt, welfare and advocacy services into the heart of the community, where people report greater ease and less perceived stigma from being able to drop into an advice hub embedded within a community sports club.

Local businesses, too, have been getting behind the initiative, with hairdressing business, #B, having already raised £314 to support the CHAP Kilwinning hub.

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Lisa Fagan of #B said: “We know that people across our community are genuinely worried about how the cost of living has suddenly jumped, and they fear things may get worse.

"It’s wonderful to have a dedicated team on hand to assist anyone who has debt or housing concerns, so we have made CHAP the focus of our fund-raising efforts this year.

"As a community business, it is one way we can all continue to support each other.”

The success of CHAP’s Kilwinning advice hub means that the charity is already seeking to open two other community hubs in Irvine and in Kilmarnock, alongside its longstanding base in the Three Towns, to bring advice where it is most needed and is most readily accessible.

The Kilwinning hub at the town’s sports centre operates Tuesday-Thursday from 10am-3pm with a drop-in service available on Tuesdays only.

CHAP chair, Ray Chaney, added: “People watching every penny may think twice about travelling, even to get essential advice and assistance.

"Those who are already economically or technologically excluded may not even know that help is available, so bringing our advisers right into the community is essential.

“As ever, our strongest piece of advice is to seek information and assistance as early as possible since it’s always better to tackle issues before they threaten to escalate and land someone in a crisis situation.”

Anyone requiring assistance through the Kilwinning hub can also call Nicola on 07947 774741.

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