Short sighted is the polite way to describe the recently announced government cuts to the Financial Inclusion Fund and the loss of the 500 specialist debt advisors all of whom are now facing redundancy. The less polite description of this action would be downright stupidity. With the effects of recent government policies on tax rises and spending cuts starting to affect us all (and with worse yet to come), leading to sharp increases in house repossessions and more people struggling with debt, as well as setting the country up for an almost certain double dip recession, the need for free debt advice has never been greater.
One of the largest organisations who will lose out due to this cut in funding is the CAB. Financial Inclusion money was used by the Citizen’s Advice Bureaux to deliver face to face debt coaching for most vulnerable – those in mortgage arrears due to a change in circumstances, those subject to IVA’s, in fact anyone facing problem debt. The money was also used to train more debt advisors from a variety of organisations. Since 2004, when the Financial Inclusion Fund was first launched, evaluations have found that the services it funded have really made a difference to the lives of people using them – they worked – which is another reason that cutting this fund is an unwise move.
In response to this news, Shadow Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell said: ”There are not many better examples of the ‘Big Society’ in action – large numbers of volunteers giving their time to help people resolve their legal problems and find a way out of their money worries. When they say ‘we’re in this together’, what they mean is ‘it’s your problem now, not ours’.”
With CAB’s around the country also facing huge funding cuts from local authorities and from legal aid as well, we wonder how they will manage with the undoubted increase in demand for the free services they provide. Those facing house repossessions or who need help with mortgage repayments still have some government services to rely on, such as the mortgage rescue scheme, the mortgage support scheme and the national debt line, but for how long?