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Cuts in CAB funding leaving thousands with nowhere to turn for help

6 September 2011

National charity Citizens Advice today published the first evidence that the impact of substantial cuts to bureau funding across the country is leaving thousands of people with nowhere to turn for help with resolving urgent and serious problems.

In the first four months of this financial year (1 April – 31 July 2011) Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales recorded a seven per cent drop in the total number of people they were able to help (779,000) compared with the same period last year. Cuts to bureau funding averaging 10% took effect from April.

Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

“Everyone who supports Citizens Advice – and we are pleased this includes David Cameron – should be deeply concerned by this news. It's now clear that cuts are beginning to disrupt our front line services across the country, just as people struggle to cope with the impact of job losses, reductions in public services and a massive jump in the cost of living. We want to be there for all who need us, but when bureaux have their funding slashed, there's simply no alternative to cutting back the help we offer.”

Ms Guy warned that there will be much worse to come if planned changes to legal aid go ahead and funding for face-to-face specialist debt advice ends.

“Our clients tell us that CAB advice is a lifeline when they face debt, benefits housing and employment worries. Unless sustainable funding is put in place for the future, more and more people will have nowhere to turn when they desperately need help with urgent and serious problems,” she said.

“The irony is that as a volunteer-based service we provide excellent value for money and research has proved that timely CAB advice saves public money in the long run. Every £1 of legal aid spent on housing, debt, employment and benefits advice can save up to £8.80* in costs to the taxpayer further down the line, by nipping problems in the bud before they escalate out of control.”

She added:

“When bureaux are forced to reduce services they also lose highly skilled, dedicated volunteers and staff – a tragic waste and a false economy when you take into account the resources invested in creating a highly trained volunteer workforce able to provide a professional service to the public.”

Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales, which last year advised more than 2 million people on over 7 million problems, have faced average funding cuts of almost 10% in the current financial year.  However this average figure masks wide local and regional variation, with some bureaux facing much bigger cuts.

Mansfield CAB, along with other bureaux in Nottinghamshire, has had a 60% cut in funding from Nottinghamshire County Council, rising to 74% in 2012/13, leading to difficult decisions about how to make these savings with least impact on the service to clients.The bureau estimates that at least 2,000 fewer local people will be able to get the in-depth advice they need as a result of the cuts to its funding.They have also had to make redundant the post whose function was to recruit, train and support volunteers, meaning that they are currently having to turn away people who want to train as volunteer advisers.

Cambridge CAB has 114 volunteers and 29 paid staff (only 11 FT) and has been around since 1939 when the first Citizens Advice Bureaux opened at the outbreak of the Second World War.  While they continue to be well supported by their local authorities, Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire Council, their biggest worry is that legal aid cuts will effectively wipe out their legal aid funding – 25% of their total funding – and with it their capacity to provide much-needed specialist advice and casework in housing, debt and welfare benefits.

The top five advice issues where numbers dropped most in the first quarter of 2011/12 were:

Advice issue

Debt

Employment

Legal

Relationships & family

Consumer goods and services

1 April – 30 June 20101

569,862

139,791

75,723

85,802

34,439

April – 30 June 2011

529,315

125,934

66,595

77,611

29,009

Percentage change

- 7%

- 10%

-12%

- 10%

-16%

* Citizens Advice Research: Towards a Business Case for Legal Aid

http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/legal aid

How Citizens Advice Bureaux are funded

Each Citizens Advice Bureau is a charity reliant on funding from a variety of sources.

Citizens Advice Bureau income 2010/11

Local government

Legal Services Commission

Financial Inclusion Fund

Primary Care Trusts

Big Lottery Fund

Other sources

Total

£76,000,000

£26,000,000

£17,000,000

£8,000,000

£6,000,000

£45,000,000

£178,000,000

42.7%

14.6%

9.5%

4.5%

3.4%

25.3%

100%

Notes to editors:

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk. You can also get advice online at adviceguide.org.uk
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014  service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.