Citizens Advice Bureaux “under threat” from government cuts

Reports suggest Citizens Advice Bureaux are under threat from closure, with the CAB chief exec warning of a "real threat to vital funds", reports Shamik Das.

Reports today suggest Citizens Advice Bureaux are under threat from closure, with CAB chief exec Gillian Guy warning of a “real threat to vital funds at a time when demand is increasing, and will continue to increase, as all the financial and social changes come into effect”. He says offices are being shut and staff laid off, and that “hundreds of thousands of people may not be able to get much-needed help next year” because of the cuts of up to 50 per cent that they are facing.

Today’s Mirror reports:

“Citizens Advice is losing at least £25million in local authority funding, £30million from the axing of the Financial Inclusion Fund and £3.2million from cuts to legal aid.

“CAB said of the 195 bureaux aware of their fate, almost half are expecting a cut of more than 10%, almost one in five are expecting a cut of more than 20%, and seven centres are expecting cuts of more than 50%. At least two will be forced to close.”

With shadow Cabinet Office Minister Tessa Jowell saying:

“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’.”

Earlier this month, Left Foot Forward reported how the government’s cuts to legal aid would “decimate services for the most vulnerable”, explaining:

“Charities like Citizen’s Advice Bureaux, Law Centres and community charities disproportionately provide support in the areas that are lined up to be cut, or replaced by a new phone line, including 67% of the ‘legal help’ with social welfare issues (debt, housing, benefits and employment advice) which is being removed almost entirely from the scope of legal aid.

“Between 80% and 90% of civil legal aid funding is spent on the poorest fifth of the population, and these cuts would disproportionately affect women, ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities. As an example, people appealing a decision on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are 65% more likely to succeed if they are represented in court (see Hansard, col 138), yet this representation will no longer be available under legal aid.”

And that, combined with all the other cuts in this area:

“…half a million fewer people will receive advice and representation funded by legal aid each year. On top of that, the government proposes to make a telephone line the sole point of access for legal aid, only reserving small amounts of face-to-face advice for those cases considered too complex for the phone.

“Overall, these changes, particularly the removal from scope of social welfare advice and representation combined with the expected drastic withdrawal of funding for advice from local authorities, would leave people in vulnerable situations with little recourse to support.”

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