Community debt advisers 'on front line in cost of living crisis'

Fully funded debt advice services essential as cost of living crisis blights millions of lives, warns Unite

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Unite is calling on the government to invest in community-based debt advice in response to the cost of living crisis which is creating financial misery for millions.

Unite is calling for the government’s Money and Pension Service (MaPS) to consult with debt advisers about the best way to help people struggling with their finances. MaPS has repeatedly attempted to slash the number of community debt advisers in favour of call centre and web chat services but debt advisers argue that one-to-one support from local services is vital.

Proposals to halve the funding for MaPS community-based debt advice services were dropped at the end of last year following a concerted campaign led by Unite.

It is anticipated that families already struggling to keep their heads above water are going to suffer in the coming weeks as they face a triple whammy of a huge increase in energy prices, the rise in national insurance contributions and higher council tax bills.

The need for serious investment in community debt advisers became more urgent this week as the chancellor Rishi Sunak failed to introduce measures in his spring statement to tackle the cost of living crisis.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “The cost of living crisis is hitting families from all sides, food costs are surging, energy prices are going through the roof and fuel has never been more expensive.

“It is inevitable that families, through no fault of their own, will find themselves in debt and they need advice and support at the earliest opportunity to reduce the misery they are facing. This should be available through a face-to-face meeting with a debt advice worker.”

Debt advisers who are members of Unite have recently joined forces with Advice UK and We Are Debt Advisers to place additional pressure on MaPS and the government to ensure that there is adequate provision of community debt advisers to cope with future challenges.

Unite believes that unless community-based debt advice services are easily accessible then thousands of the most vulnerable people, including those where English is not the first language or who have limited access to the internet, won’t receive the help they need and will spiral further into debt.

Unite national officer for the non-profit sector Siobhan Endean added, “Community debt advisers are on the front line in the cost of living crisis. Their advice and expertise is essential to help families cope with financial challenges.

“It is incumbent on the government and MaPs to not only rule out any further cuts in community debt advisers but also fund an increase in the service so that the most vulnerable, who have the greatest need for assistance, can access the support they need,” Endean noted.

Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers’ living standards.

By Barckley Sumner

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