A SLASH in funding has hit the local Citizens’ Advice Bureau which now expects to shed more than 30 jobs and greatly reduce its debt advice services.
East Yorkshire Citizens’ Advice Bureau has had an office in Bridlington since 1985 but now the service – which covers Driffield, Beverley, Hull and Goole – is facing a government funding cut of 42%.
This will affect all its services but will especially hit its debt advisors who are salaried experts handling more than 1,750 debt cases every year.
In the East Riding, the average level of personal debt is over £13,000 and thousands of people rely on the advice offered by the Bureau to help them through their financial problems.
Yvonne Kurvits, a generalist services manager based at Bridlington’s Prospect Arcade office, said that the loss of funding comes at a time when more people than ever are turning to the Bureau for debt advice.
“We have an awful lot of people come to us with debt problems and in the current financial climate we don’t expect to see a reduction in that,” she said.
“The real problem is the effect the cut will have on the organisation as a whole – 42% is an awful lot to lose and 33 members of staff have now been given redundancy notices.
“We are not sure what we will end up with, and it is fair to say that there is a lot of concern.
“Obviously morale is always affected when people are at risk of redundancy,” added Yvonne.
The Bureau operates with over 150 volunteers but does need to employ salaried specialists and case workers to provide training and support.
The East Yorkshire offices deal with around 15,500 enquiries annually and debt accounted for 55% of the issues it dealt with last year.
Lesley Thornley, chief executive officer of the East Yorkshire Citizens’ Advice Bureau, has grave concerns about the future of its services in light of the latest cuts.
She said: “This is devastating news for the people of East Riding.
“Our team are experienced and dedicated caseworkers who are able to help clients with complex issues such as bankruptcy, debt relief orders and court action.
“It is a false economy to cut these services.
“Early advice and intervention averts crisis and has been shown to save up to £10 for every £1 spent.”
The Bureau is losing the money from the government’s Financial Inclusion Fund and although it will continue to receive funds from East Riding of Yorkshire Council and the Legal Services Commission, it will not be able to provide the level of advice it currently offers.
This is because, unlike Legal Aid Funding, the services provided by the Financial Inclusion Fund are available to everybody.
If the cuts go ahead in March as planned, the Bureau faces losing over half-a-million pounds.
Lesley said: “This major funding cut comes on top of the ending of other projects and funds such as Additional Hours and the Migrant Impact Fund.
She added: “This is a major threat to the Bureau and we are having to review very seriously what services can continue.”
Mark Hoban MP, financial secretary to the treasury, has already announced that the government’s Financial Inclusion Fund will end on March 31.