Issued by Citizens Advice Direct
On Wednesday 29 August, Alasdair Allan, MSP for the Western Isles, unveiled a Gaelic language plaque on behalf Citizens Advice Direct, the telephone and web-based advice service which launched in Scotland in 2004.
The unveiling follows the recent establishment of Citizens Advice Direct's Stornoway-based centre, officially opened in June earlier this year by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, John Swinney MSP. The centre was the second to open in Scotland - the first having been established in Glasgow almost eight years ago - and will provide a platform from which the organisation plans to launch its forthcoming Gaelic Language Advice Service.
Following funding from Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Citizens Advice Direct plans to extend its service to offer advice on issues as diverse as debt, employment, housing and welfare in Gaelic, an addition to the organisation's already well-established English language service, with the Gaelic helpline soon to be available on 0808 8000180.
Following the unveiling, Dr Allan - himself a Gaelic language speaker and past-winner of Gaelic journalist of the year - made the following statement:
"I am delighted that Citizens Advice Direct have decided to provide this service in Gaelic. There is no reason why information can't be supplied in Gaelic and this recognises Gaelic's increased status locally and nationally. Wearing both my hats as a local MSP and as Gaelic minister I commend Citizens Advice Direct and would encourage volunteers to become involved in staffing this service."
Bria Mason, Gaelic Development Officer at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, also welcomed the new service:
"We strongly support the provision of this new Gaelic language helpline provided by Citizens Advice Direct allowing Gaelic speakers to access these important services in their own language. We are keen to see Gaelic used in meaningful new ways in the Highlands and Islands, and we welcome this new service."
The Stornoway Citizens Advice Direct helpline currently handles in excess of 900 consumer calls every day from across Scotland, a figure expected to rise once the organisation's Gaelic language advice service launches later this year. In order to meet this demand, Citizens Advice Direct is currently seeking linguistically gifted volunteer helpline advisors to work in their Stornoway centre, based in Gleann Seileach. Volunteers must be fluent in both English and Gaelic, and be willing to dedicate a minimum of six hours per week for six months, or a total of 156 hours.
Last year, 15% of Citizens Advice Directs volunteers went on to full time work following their time with the organisation, with each individual volunteer having personally helped hundreds of Scottish citizens. Volunteers are due to be trained later this year and will all be ensured reimbursement for reasonable travel costs during their comprehensive training programme, as well as throughout their time volunteering with the organisation.
Citizens Advice Direct encourages anyone interested in volunteering to call 01851 708425 for information and details on how to book a place on a forthcoming volunteer advisor training course.