The future of the welfare benefits advice service offered through the Beacon Centre in Falmouth has been secured for the next three years thanks to town councillors.

Jenny Richards and Emma May run the service through the Beacon Community Regeneration Partnership and are available from 9am until noon on Thursdays, but funding has always been an issue.

Last week Mrs Richards gave Falmouth Town Council an update on the service, telling them that over the last 15 years, between £50,000 and £60,000 of unclaimed benefits have been released to residents, year on year, thanks to their help.

She said the service will be needed even more when Universal Credit comes in this summer, when claims have to be made online, and because of changes to personal independence payments.

“Not everyone has a computer and if they have, they cannot always use them the way it needs to be, but they can come to us and we will do it for them,” said Mrs Richards.

The service has previously received an annual grant of £1,000 from the town council to cover some of its costs, but Mrs Richards admitted it was a struggle “year by year, almost hour by hour” to continue.

“We must keep going, where else are people going to get help from?” she said. “People come in here and they are in a desperate state. Things are going to get worse (for claimants).”

She described how one man had approached them in a suicidal state, but within just 20 minutes they had been able to resolve his issues and sort out his benefits.

She thanked the council for its support and asked members if they had any ideas on how to secure the service.

She explained it costs £75 a week to run the service, and for 45 weeks a year that equated to £3,375 which covers the cost of both advisors.

Councillor Steve Eva suggested the council could cover the total cost of the service for the term of this current council - that is until 2021.

He said: "We all know what a great job Mrs Richards does. It's an excellent job and for some people it's the only hope they have got.

"It would be nice to know that they have got enough money not to have to think about it for the next 12 months."

As the debate then turned to financing the service, mayor Grenville Chappel, who helps run the Beacon partnership, left the room.

Mr Eva added: "There are people out there who are desperate. We around this table fortunately are not in that position, but some people are.

"We could finance it, even for this term of the council. I think it's that important."

Councillor Alan Jewell also suggested that the town's Cornwall councillors could look at giving a grant from their community chest allowances.

"We could help out a little bit as well, to top it up," he said. "We could make up any shortfall and provide a safety net."

The town council unanimously agreed with Mr Eva's suggestion and are to award the benefits advice service with an annual grant of £3,375 over the next three years.

Mrs Richards, who admitted afterwards that she had not gone to the council to plead for more money, said: "It will give us some breathing space and give us time to go for bigger grants.

"We have been literally working hand to mouth all the time."

The service is not restricted to residents of the Penwerris ward, but is available for anyone who needs help.

To book an appointment with Jenny or Emma call 01326 212784.