Face-to-face debt advice
As part of the Government’s Financial Inclusion Fund (FIF) first established in 2004, £45 million was set aside for 2006 – 2008 to expand the capacity of the advice sector to deliver face-to-face debt advice. This support is targeted in particular at financially excluded clients. Over 82,000 clients have had appointments with money advisers as part of this service between May 2006 and March 2008.
Citizens Advice successfully bid to lead 10 of the projects in England and Wales. It has meant that Citizens Advice has enabled the employment of an additional 350 money advisers, working in many of the most deprived communities.
Last year (2006/07) debt enquiries to Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales hit a record high, increasing by 20% from the previous year to a total 1.7 million. The number of debt problems brought to bureaux has doubled in the last 10 years. Debt is now the number one issue advised on in bureaux, accounting for one in three of all enquiries, and the Citizens Advice Bureau network is the largest single provider of free, independent and expert debt advice in the UK.
This increase is partly due to the increased number of money advisers in bureaux to see clients on this matter, as a result of FIF funding.
In December 2007, the Government announced that it would be continuing funding for FIF between 2008-11, and in May 2008 this commitment was enhanced with additional resources.
How a money adviser helped Mr and Mrs Parker
Mr and Mrs Parker, aged 73 and 78 years old were living in a mortgaged property when they visited the CAB to meet with a FIF adviser.
Both clients are frail. Mrs Parker has high blood pressure and sight problems and Mr Parker suffers from mobility problems. They had accumulated £64,000 of credit debts and were suffering from increasing levels of stress as a result.
The FIF adviser aided the clients to maximise their income by claiming attendance allowance and subsequently carers allowance with disability and carer’s premiums. This gave them entitlement to help with their housing costs.
Pro-rata offers were made and accepted by all creditors and they have been advised to seek a debt management plan or an IVA.
Before visiting the adviser, the couple were looking at 15 years to repay their debts – now they will be potentially repaying everything in around 6 years.