Northern Ireland

Concern as Citizens Advice HQ shuts up shop

The shutters are permanently down on the Citizens Advice office on Donegal Pass. Picture by Mal McCann
The shutters are permanently down on the Citizens Advice office on Donegal Pass. Picture by Mal McCann

Concern has been voiced about the sudden closure of the regional headquarters of Citizens Advice.

The charity's office on Donegall Pass in Belfast has closed due to funding issues, with the fate of more than 50 workers employed in mostly administrative roles unknown.

The other 28 Citizens Advice offices across Northern Ireland, which operate as separate legal entities, are unaffected.

The Department for Communities (DfC), which has provided funding of more than £1m to Citizens Advice and partner organisations over the past two years for the delivery of a number of programmes, said it had decided to withdraw the money because the organisation was "not considered viable".

The department insists the move will "not impact service users".

Belfast SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said the development was "extremely worrying".

"Welfare reforms are driving more people than ever to advice centres, some having appointment lists of up to three to four weeks," he said.

"With no assembly or minister for communities to mitigate against these reforms that are forcing claimants into financial hardship, if Citizens Advice is going into administration, it is important that it has no impact on the vital frontline advice work undertaken by local Citizens Advice Bureaux.”

He said the SDLP would be writing to the DfC permanent secretary asking what measures will be put in place to ensure there is no impact on local advice services and their clients.

A spokesman for Citizens Advice in England and Wales, which is understood to have assumed a partial administrative role following the closure of the Donegall Pass office, said: "We are aware of issues relating to Citizens Advice Northern Ireland and are in discussions with relevant stakeholders.

"People in Northern Ireland can continue to access support to resolve their problems via their local bureaux."