A SERVICE which provides guidance and support to people in difficulties is looking to consolidate its financial base in the coming years

Marie Henry, the new chief executive of Citizens Advice South Worcestershire, is just a few weeks into the job, but is already looking forward to the challenges.

Mrs Henry comes to the Malvern-based charity from the Bromsgrove District Housing Trust, where she spent 20 years.

"I really enjoyed it, but I felt it was time to do something completely different ," she said.

Citizens Advice South Worcestershire covers Malvern Evesham and Pershore, and the rural areas around them, with two full offices, the headquarters at Malvern's Prospect Close, and Evesham's Port Street, with outreach services at other venues, mostly libraries.

It is a lean operation, with only 12 paid staff, including Mrs Henry, and is highly dependent on its 140 volunteers.

"One of my goals is to put South Worcestershire on a firmer financial footing. I'm thinking about several ways to be able to do that - perhaps open a shop or cafe, or hold an annual fundraising ball.

And, as always, recruiting more help is a perennial concer.

"The training system is very comprehensive, and we are always on the look-out for more volunteers.

"Many of our volunteers actually meet our clients and work with them on their problems, but there are also opportunities for people to work as administrators or receptionists."

She said that those who do act as advisors is sometimes not easy.

"Being able to deal with people at their most vulnerable does require empathy - our clients are frequently very distressed when they contact us.

"But the volunteers also have to be able to switch off - you cam;t go on with other people's problems on your mind indefinitely."