Charity advice sector will lose £100m by 2013/14, says coalition

Justice for All says reductions in funding from local authorities and other sources means one in five community advice organisations could close

Community advice organisations could close
Community advice organisations could close

The charity advice centre sector will be at least £100m a year worse off by 2013/4 compared with 2010/11 because of cuts to legal aid and other funds, a coalition of organisations including charities, advice providers and unions has warned.

Justice for All, which is made up of organisations including Citizens Advice, the Law Centres Federation and Advice UK, said the sector would lose £51m a year through legal aid cuts starting in April 2013 and another £51.3m a year from 2012/13 because of reductions in funding from councils and other sources.

However, the losses could be even greater because the figures do not include non-legal aid funding lost by 60 law centres and 800 Advice UK members for whom reliable figures were not available, said Justice for All.

A report published today by the campaign group also warns that one in five community advice organisations is threatened with closure because of severe funding cuts.

The organisation carried out a poll of 230 community advice organisations, which indicated that three-quarters of advice groups were hit by serious funding cuts in the past year, including cuts to council and other grant funding.

More than 81 per cent of the charities surveyed said they would have to reduce the number of people they could help in future, despite increasing demand.

More than half said they were cutting help for people with the most complex problems. A third of charities surveyed said they were reducing the number of volunteers they used because they could not afford to train or support them.

Will Horwitz, campaign manager of Justice for All, said: "The government must put its money where its mouth is when it comes to advice. Politicians of all parties and ministers have repeatedly said they know how valuable free advice is in our communities. Yet advice agencies are facing a desperate struggle just to stay afloat, as they see funding sources dry up one after the other."

Justice for All is also urging MPs to back a House of Lords amendment to the Legal Aid Bill that would allow people to get legal aid to pay for advice on welfare benefits reviews and appeals cases.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said a £16.8m Advice Services Fund was intended to give immediate help for around 300 not-for-profit free advice services in England with priority given to those facing the largest funding reductions. "Together with the Transition Fund, it is a serious and meaningful commitment to helping free advice services carry on delivering much needed help to people in difficult economic times," he said.

"The government is also committed to supporting advice organisations in the longer term, and is currently working with the sector to review the future funding environment for these services, likely levels of demand, and how government can play a positive role," he said. 

Horwitz said the Advice Services Fund, which opened for applications in November, had received 620 applications worth over £35m, so some applicants got nothing.

"The government is also committed to supporting advice organisations in the longer term, and is currently working with the sector to review the future funding environment for these services, likely levels of demand, and how government can play a positive role," he said.

 



 

A Cabinet Office spokesman said the £16.8m Advice Services Fund was intended to give immediate help for around 300 not for profit free advice services in England with priority given to those facing the largest funding reductions. "Together with the Transition Fund, it is a serious and meaningful commitment to helping free advice services carry on delivering much needed help to people in difficult economic times," he said.

 

He added: "The government is also committed to supporting advice organisations in the longer term, and is currently working with the sector to review the future funding environment for these services, likely levels of demand, and how government can play a positive role."

 

However Justice for All said the Advice Services Fund, which opened for applications in November, had received 620 applications worth over £35m so some applicants got nothing.

 

"The government is also committed to supporting advice organisations in the longer term, and is currently working with the sector to review the future funding environment for these services, likely levels of demand, and how government can play a positive role."

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