A merger between Citizens Advice Rossendale, Hyndburn, Burnley and Pendle will ensure East Lancashire residents can receive help and assistance local to them.

The newly named Citizens Advice East Lancashire (CAEL) has extended its outreach services.

It currently has four offices at: Stubbylee Hall in Bacup, New Era Centre in Accrington, Every Street in Nelson, and the Calico Building in Burnley town centre.

Citizens Advice at Ribble Valley closed in March, but the new agency is now providing outreach in Longridge and Clitheroe.

Chief executive David Oglaza said: “We now have 46 staff and 27 volunteers. By merging, it means that we are able to apply for more funding to help more people across a wider area.

“As Rossendale and Hyndburn, annually around 6,000 people would access our services, as CAEL we will serve 15,000 people and bring in around £4 million extra income into the community.

“There used to be a lot of duplication across the services. Before, the smaller agencies could not afford to employ a benefits expert, but if we share that cost across the whole of East Lancashire we can.

“Merging has given us more resilience and better capability to manage staff absence.”

Call services manager, Julia Hannaford, added: “I am looking to make sure there is access for everyone across East Lancashire as and when they need our services.

“We have one phone number for all areas, we have improved our digital offer and now also have a WhatsApp form and we offer face-to-face across East Lancashire.

“In some areas of East Lancashire, we have large Asian and Eastern European communities as well as refugees and asylum seekers; it is important that everyone can access our service at the first point of contact for whatever their issue is.

“Our aim is to have a minimum of two core outreach sessions available in each local authority area.”

CAEL has a National Lottery funded Crisis Support and Recovery Project led by Lorraine Marshall.

She said: “We have funding until the end of June and we are able to offer additional access points across the area including at Hyndburn Food Pantry on the last Tuesday of each month, 10am to 12pm, and at Haslingden Community Link on the first and third Wednesdays, from 1pm to 3pm.

“I am there to have a chat with anyone attending and offer whatever assistance is appropriate, rather than them having to fill a form in.”