UP to £12million of problem debt has been tackled by Barnsley Citizens' Advice in the last year.

An annual report published by the advice service reveals it dealt with 21,480 problems during 2012 to 2013, increasing its advice line hours from 17.5 hours to 30 hours per week, which resulted in an increase of 20 per cent in the number of individuals supported (4,863).

It states there was a 23 percent increase in total client contacts (13,821) and a 50 per cent increase in telephone contacts (5,483).

The report shows that during this period the bureau also saw a 65 per cent increase in homelessness being averted (452 cases), a 46 per cent increase in the amount of problem debt managed (total of £12million from a total of 9,423 cases), a 34 per cent rise in relationship queries (719 cases), a 28 per cent increase in welfare benefit cases (2,779) and a 25 per cent hike in employment queries (1,021).

The main problem areas were benefits (15 per cent), debt (46 per cent), housing (four per cent) and employment (five per cent).

The top five benefit issues were employment support allowance, housing benefit, working and child tax credits, council tax benefit and jobseekers' allowance.

Unsecured personal loan debts came top in debt issues, at 17 per cent, while key housing issues included nine per cent of clients threatened with homelessness and three per cent suffering actual homelessness.

In the report CAB chief executive Pat Heath says: "In an era of austerity there is no doubt the bureau will be needed more than ever to support people who are adversely affected by the harsh economic climate that is likely to prevail for the foreseeable future.

"Whether we are able to meet those needs will depend entirely on the level of resources, both financial and human, at our disposal.

"Nevertheless, we are convinced, provided the bureau has the necessary funding, that we will continue to make a significant and positive difference to the lives of many people in Barnsley."