Vital debts service is facing cuts

FINANCIAL LIFELINE: Cuts to CAB funding could hit families, it is claimed.

FINANCIAL LIFELINE: Cuts to CAB funding could hit families, it is claimed.

First published in Local

SIX hundred desperate Wyre Forest families face losing a financial lifeline as a Government-backed agency slashes funding to a local debt advice service by half, it is claimed.

Wyre Forest Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) warns the move leaves people at risk of losing their homes and suffering marital breakdowns, domestic violence and mental health problems.

At the same time as the local CAB debt counselling service is set to lose £25,000 a year, the Money Advice Service (MAS) is increasing its funding for similar services nationally by £3.6 million.

The CAB is appealing against the decision to halve its annual £50,000 funding from the end of September but if the cut still goes ahead, it will have to make one of its two part-time case workers redundant.

The branch, which helps 1,200 families a year, is challenging the MAS about the figures on which it is basing cuts in Wyre Forest and South Worcestershire.

Kate Bennett, Wyre Forest CAB manager, said: “We are asking for copies of the MAS data.

“Six thousand families have been helped by Kidderminster food bank and it is beyond belief that cuts are proposed to the only local community charity providing independent and confidential advice to vulnerable people in Wyre Forest.”

Mrs Bennett added: “The MAS does not realise the extent of deprivation in Wyre Forest, which is in the worst 10 per cent of deprived areas in the country and has three of the most deprived wards in the county.

“Wyre Forest has no law centres, no solicitors specialising in social welfare law and no funded debts centres.

We are the only port of call for vulnerable people.

“Even the County Court has moved to Worcester and we are reduced to using fax and e-mails to suspend warrants and make applications.

We handle five debt cases a day - 30 per cent of our total cases.”

Last year, the CAB branch completed 60 debt relief orders and 14 bankruptcy petitions.

Mrs Bennett said: “If interest rates rise, this problem will get worse, not better. The trouble is that when people are in a panic or dire straits they don’t make the best decisions and turn to high-value loans they can’t afford to pay back.

“This can lead to families being unable to pay their mortgages losing their homes and financial problems can lead to marital breakdowns, domestic violence and mental wellbeing is affected.”

Caroline Siarkiewicz, head of the UK debt advice programme at the MAS, said: “We are pleased that our funding for free face-to-face debts advice is increasing nationally, with an addition - al £3.6 million being spent this year that will help more over-indebted people.

“It’s vital that the money is targeted at those people and those areas that are most in need. This means that a few areas will, unfortunately, see a reduction in funding.”

Comments (5)

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11:24am Thu 17 Jul 14

worcester92 says...

It is very disappointing to hear of these cuts. It does seem that MAS is perhaps unaware of the levels of deprivation etc in Wyre Forest and South Worcestershire. But it would be wrong for people to assume from this article that part time debt advisers are paid £25,000.

The £50,000 does not just pay the wages of two part time advisers. It contributes towards the wages of the managers and other Bureau running costs. If funding like this is withdrawn it puts at risk not just the debt advice but all the services provided by the Bureau.

To provide a rough indication, looking at the 2012-13 accounts for Wyre Forest CAB, the MAS/FIF grant amounted to 18% of total Bureau income. Using that same percentage, the expenditure could be broken down as follows: £40,887 salaries, £7,941 running costs and £1,796 towards surplus funds. The Bureau employed an average of 12 employees during the year so 18% amounts to 2.16 staff, an average of £18,929 per staff member. The actual figure for part time debt advisers would be lower.

From this it will be clear that merely making a part time staff member redundant will not be enough to make good the shortfall of £25,000. Other cuts will also be needed. This is why funding cuts like this are so serious.
It is very disappointing to hear of these cuts. It does seem that MAS is perhaps unaware of the levels of deprivation etc in Wyre Forest and South Worcestershire. But it would be wrong for people to assume from this article that part time debt advisers are paid £25,000. The £50,000 does not just pay the wages of two part time advisers. It contributes towards the wages of the managers and other Bureau running costs. If funding like this is withdrawn it puts at risk not just the debt advice but all the services provided by the Bureau. To provide a rough indication, looking at the 2012-13 accounts for Wyre Forest CAB, the MAS/FIF grant amounted to 18% of total Bureau income. Using that same percentage, the expenditure could be broken down as follows: £40,887 salaries, £7,941 running costs and £1,796 towards surplus funds. The Bureau employed an average of 12 employees during the year so 18% amounts to 2.16 staff, an average of £18,929 per staff member. The actual figure for part time debt advisers would be lower. From this it will be clear that merely making a part time staff member redundant will not be enough to make good the shortfall of £25,000. Other cuts will also be needed. This is why funding cuts like this are so serious. worcester92
  • Score: 16

3:12pm Thu 17 Jul 14

Primrose Coley says...

If Wyre Forest CAB loses its appeal against the cut to its funding, again, the most vulnerable in our community will suffer. How about some suggestions to our current government on how to manage its own housekeeping, instead.
1. Scrap the HS2
2. Scrap MPs expenses
3. Scrap any MP who is found guilty of any form of tax evasion or
dishonesty.
4. Scrap foreign aid, except for emergencies.
5. Scrap the whole bunch at the next election.
If Wyre Forest CAB loses its appeal against the cut to its funding, again, the most vulnerable in our community will suffer. How about some suggestions to our current government on how to manage its own housekeeping, instead. 1. Scrap the HS2 2. Scrap MPs expenses 3. Scrap any MP who is found guilty of any form of tax evasion or dishonesty. 4. Scrap foreign aid, except for emergencies. 5. Scrap the whole bunch at the next election. Primrose Coley
  • Score: 1

5:22pm Thu 17 Jul 14

Roy Keys says...

There is now an alarming increase,I fear,in the numbers of attacks our present coalition is making on the living standards of those in our society unable to absorb them.Indeed each week that passes we see this happening with cruel monotonous regularity.The above is yet another example which could yet again help widen the ever widening inequality gap

Genesis.
There is now an alarming increase,I fear,in the numbers of attacks our present coalition is making on the living standards of those in our society unable to absorb them.Indeed each week that passes we see this happening with cruel monotonous regularity.The above is yet another example which could yet again help widen the ever widening inequality gap Genesis. Roy Keys
  • Score: -4

9:02am Fri 18 Jul 14

Primrose Coley says...

The government has written off almost £50 million of taxpayers' money ( Express and Star, Thursday, July 17th, 2014) for cancelled court construction projects, including three in the West Midlands.
More than enough, with some to spare, to fund Wyre Forest CAB's proposed £25,000 cut in funding.
With reference to my previous comment: I rest my case.
The government has written off almost £50 million of taxpayers' money ( Express and Star, Thursday, July 17th, 2014) for cancelled court construction projects, including three in the West Midlands. More than enough, with some to spare, to fund Wyre Forest CAB's proposed £25,000 cut in funding. With reference to my previous comment: I rest my case. Primrose Coley
  • Score: -2

5:43pm Fri 18 Jul 14

Forestfamily says...

When it's gone - it's gone. The Wyre Forest CAB is vital to our town . I have used them many times in making referrals for people seeking help as well as for my own personal needs. Any money taken from them from whatever purse will have a damaging effect on the whole service not just debt advice. I hope Mark Garnier can and will put some pressure on the decision makers in control of public money. If the Kidderminster CAB goes where will the thousands of people who access the service go? To the hub ? , to Mark Garnier's office ? or will we have to travel to Worcester CAB to get face to face help. Many people don't have the means or the confidence to seek help over the phone or via the internet. I urge the people of Wyre Forest to put pressure wherever possible to bring further support to the CAB and protest very strongly about their funding being reduced. It is the charity for OUR community- please support it.
When it's gone - it's gone. The Wyre Forest CAB is vital to our town . I have used them many times in making referrals for people seeking help as well as for my own personal needs. Any money taken from them from whatever purse will have a damaging effect on the whole service not just debt advice. I hope Mark Garnier can and will put some pressure on the decision makers in control of public money. If the Kidderminster CAB goes where will the thousands of people who access the service go? To the hub ? , to Mark Garnier's office ? or will we have to travel to Worcester CAB to get face to face help. Many people don't have the means or the confidence to seek help over the phone or via the internet. I urge the people of Wyre Forest to put pressure wherever possible to bring further support to the CAB and protest very strongly about their funding being reduced. It is the charity for OUR community- please support it. Forestfamily
  • Score: 10

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