A citizen advice bureau’s pioneering approach to helping people stay out of debt has earned it a £20,000 funding boost.

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The Suffolk West Citizens Advice Bureau (SWCAB) was handed the pot by Forest Heath District Council for its Money SMART programme, which is designed to help people manage their money better and stop them falling into debt.

It fought off competition from the neighbouring Newmarket CAB branch, as well as a range of other third-sector providers of financial advice, local credit unions, banks and financial advisors.

Forest Heath’s cabinet member for families and communities, Robin Millar, said: “It’s much better if communities can work together to provide help for people before they get into trouble, rather than public bodies picking up the pieces afterwards.

“Schemes that get in first, before debt becomes unmanageable, help those in trouble but also save taxpayers’ money. This approach fits with our own localities approach to strengthening families and communities and is much more cost-effective in the long run, so we can better focus our dwindling funds.”

Organisations were invited to submit bids for part of a £25,000 pot to deliver effective support that could be tailored to individual communities and was not a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

SWCAB’s Money SMART campaign is derived as an anagram of its advice to Stay informed, Make ends meet, plan Ahead, choose the Right product and keep on Track. Local volunteers are recruited to stay in touch with the local community and assess how well the scheme is working.

The council’s new initiative followed Newmarket CAB being handed almost £5,000 more funding for next year to cope with increasing demand.

When the changes were made in November, the council also assigned the £25,000 pot for organisations to bid for, which will rise to £30,000 for 2015/16.

SWCAB’s scheme was judged to best-fit Forest Heath’s criteria, and the £20,000 will fund community-based financial training across Mildenhall and Brandon.

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