Wednesday, December 16th, 2015
Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie has condemned a proposal to cut funding for advice services, threatening the future of facilities like the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
Mr Finnie warned that axing advice services would actually cost the area money, as without these services many people underclaim benefits to which they are entitled.
This would exacerbate the impact of UK government welfare reform plans on Argyll and Bute, which Mr Finnie estimates will cost the area over £760 million every year until 2021.
Mr Finnie said:
“Not only will removing funding for vital advice services like the Citizens’ Advice Bureau make life more difficult for people across Argyll and Bute, it will cost rather than save money. This is a short-sighted false economy.
In addition, the Council are proposing to axe two in-house benefit advisor posts, creating even more demand for Citizens’ Advice services. This is based on an expectation that the introduction of Universal Credit will simplify claims and cut caseloads, a highly optimistic prediction given the UK Government’s shambolic handling of their new scheme.
UK Government welfare reform will hit Argyll and Bute hard. Osborne’s cuts will take over £7.6 million from the local economy, and of course that burden will be falling on the most vulnerable.
Financial advice services like Citizens’ Advice and in-house advisors bring money into the local economy by making sure their clients claim what they’re entitled to. UK Government figures suggest more than £20 billion in benefits is going unclaimed every year.
Citizens’ Advice estimate their services put £1.7 million into the pockets of people Argyll and Bute, and therefore into the economy. A dedicated Income Maximisation Team in Highland Council shows similar results, delivering £3.975 million in financial gain to local people.
Killing off advice services in the name of ‘savings’ will hurt local people, hurt the local economy and ultimately hurt the Council budget. I’m calling on Argyll and Bute to scrap the proposed cut and guarantee the future of Citizens’ Advice in Argyll and Bute.”