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Future of free advice services in Wales under the spotlight
Ministers commissioned the review of not-for-profit advice services, such as those provided by the likes of Citizens Advice Bureau, in light of the unprecedented pressures faced by such organisations given the reduction in their funding, alongside the rising demand for advice in the current economic climate.
The sector is expected to lose around £3.36 million over the next eighteen months with the equivalent of 50 full time jobs disappearing.
Organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau, Shelter Cymru, Consumer Focus Wales, Age Cymru and the Disability Law Society are among the many groups who provide free advice. Changes to the Legal Aid system alone will see the Citizens Advice Bureau in Wales lose 42 specialist case workers.
The Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty Huw Lewis is examining the findings of the review to make sure people can access the help they need.
“Thousands of people every week rely on free advice to cope with the demands on their lives. The support these not-for-profit organisations provide is more crucial than ever given the current tough times. These organisations are facing a huge squeeze on their funding at the very time when more people are turning to them for help. Expert, specialist advice in many areas will simply disappear.”
“The economic downturn, the cuts being imposed by the UK Government and the changes to welfare are combining to make a perfect storm. This review will help us create a picture of what services are currently available in Wales and how best to help the sector in the difficult times ahead.
“There is evidence suggesting that money invested in advice services can potentially save the tax payer in the long run. Given the unprecedented pressure on the Welsh Government’s budget, we will not be able to take on the burden of funding all services, but I want to make sure people do not fall through the cracks given the changes.”