HUNDREDS of people in Malvern are set to miss out on free debt advice due to proposed funding cuts to the town’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
From October the South Worcestershire branch is set to receive £25,000 less a year – a 50 per cent reduction – from the Government backed Money Advice Service which is redistributing funds to areas which are considered to be higher in need.
At the moment the branch based at the Enigma Business Park provides debt advice to more than 2,000 people a year predominantly throughout Malvern and Wychavon, but the cuts will mean one of the two part time posts which deliver the service will be made redundant.
Les Kinmond, chief officer at the South Worcestershire CAB, said 30 per cent of the service’s cases were debt related and described the news as a ‘serious blow’.
“The MAS does not realise the extent of deprivation in pockets of South Worcestershire and the difficulties in delivering advice services in rural areas,” he said.
“South Worcestershire has no law centres, no solicitors specialising in delivering free Social Welfare Law, and no funded debt centres. We are the major port of call for vulnerable people.
“The CAB is a charity and does not receive any guaranteed Government funding. Consistent cuts in specialist funding have reduced our ability to deliver core general advice services, and this latest blow will only put the service at greater risk.”
Mr Kinmond said Malvern MP Harriett Baldwin had been very helpful and now he hoped the public would put pressure on the Money Advice Service to have a rethink.
Richard West, advice services manager at the CAB, added: “People in rural areas are going to find it even harder to get advice.
“Wages have stagnated, while housing and energy costs have gone up and more people are making use of payday lenders which incur a massive amount of interest.
“A rise in people unable to deal with their debts will lead to an increase in people declaring bankruptcy, getting evicted and facing court action if they do not get help at an early stage.
“Debts can lead to a lot of stress and people’s health can suffer as a result.”
In response Caroline Siarkiewicz, head of the UK Debt Advice Programme at the Money Advice Service, said nationally an extra £3.6million was being spent on funding free debt advice but admitted some areas would see funding reductions.
“In South Worcestershire, there will still be excellent face-to-face support available and we’re confident that it will meet the need for face-to-face advice.
“There is also high quality online and phone advice provided by StepChange and National Debtline among others.”
She added people could visit moneyadviceservice.org.uk/debt to use the service’s debt locater tool to find their neareset help.