Delight at debt advice reprieve

DEBT advice experts are celebrating after the short-term future of a specialist advice service was secured.

Chiefs at Hartlepool Citizens’ Advice Bureau had described plans to withdraw funding for the Financial Inclusion Fund (FIF), which sees highly-skilled caseworkers working closely with clients to manage their debts, as a “devastating blow”.

But an announcement by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has confirmed the Government is to provide a £27m national funding package to allow the face-to-face debt advice service to continue in town for the next 12 months.

Three members of staff working on the FIF project at the Park Road-based bureau had been issued with redundancy notices which meant the centre faced having no specialist debt advice staff from April.

The caseworkers negotiate with creditors on the client’s behalf to try and get more manageable payments and Hartlepool CAB employs three debt advice caseworkers using around £95,000 of funding from the FIF programme.

Bureau manager, Joe Michna, said: “It means that we can continue to provide a full and comprehensive face-to-face debt advice service for Hartlepool residents after March 31.

“We had feared that we would not be able to provide any further specialist debt advice, but this is excellent news.

“The citizens advice service has been strongly lobbying the Government to reconsider the ending of funding for face-to-face debt advice and we are pleased that the Government has recognised the value of this service.

“However, this funding, although only for another 12 months, will nevertheless mean that we continue to help local residents with debt problems and also means that we have time to consider how this service will be funded after the 12-month period.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “It’s vitally important that everyone has access to free debt advice, and I am pleased to announce that the Department for Business will provide the £27m necessary to maintain the programme of face-to-face debt advice.”

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