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Written Statement - Grant for front-line advice services from 2014-15

Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty

In April 2014, the former Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, Jeff Cuthbert AM, announced funding of £1 million to support front-line advice services in 2014-15, with indicative allocations of funding at the same level, for financial years 2015-16 and 2016-17. In July, this fund was increased to £2 million in 2014-15, representing the Welsh Government’s commitment of supporting preventative action so people are better equipped to take control of their own affairs and are able to access practical support to help them achieve this.

As part of the grant application process, eligible organisations were required to demonstrate their commitment to collaborative working, both in terms of how they propose to work in partnership with other advice providers and build links with other publicly funded services where there is a shared vision and purpose. We are keen to encourage closer working between advice providers and Credit Unions, for example, especially where this can lead to positive outcomes for clients.  Organisations also needed to show a commitment to quality standards and to set out how they propose to report on the beneficial impact which their advice will be having on service users. It is essential we take every opportunity to promote these fundamental principles as we move forward to implement the recommendations of the Advice Services Review.

I am pleased to announce the grant application and appraisal process is now complete and the Welsh Government will be allocating funding in 2014-15 to the following organisations:

  • Citizens Advice Cymru and Shelter Cymru will be awarded £1.3 million in 2014-15 to deliver specialist advice on welfare benefits; housing and debt.  This will mean help is at hand for people who need support with their benefit entitlements, with managing and repaying their debt or are in situations where they may be at risk of losing their home. The service will be available to people over the phone or face-to-face at Citizens Advice Bureaux and other locations in North Wales, Mid and South-West Wales and South-East Wales. Home-visits will be arranged for people who find it hard to access the service in any other way or where users have specific needs or disabilities.
  • Citizens Advice Cymru and SNAP Cymru will be awarded £390,000.00 in 2014-15 to support specialist discrimination advice across the full range of protected characteristics. These advisers will be based in 3 regional hubs covering South-East Wales, Mid and South-West Wales and North West and East Wales. Awareness sessions will be provided for generalist advice providers so discrimination issues are spotted as early as possible.
  • £224,209.00 will be awarded to Age Cymru to support advice services for older people and carers. This will mean many services can be maintained and strengthened in rural areas and a new peripatetic service established in Cardiff and the Vale. The multi-channel service will offer older people and carers information and advice on a range of issues, including housing and debt management.
  • £103,076.38 has been awarded to Tenovus to bolster existing information and advice services to cancer patients being delivered across all 7 Local Health Boards. The service will have a particular focus on helping cancer patients and their families increase their income and will also be aiming to reach out to BAMER communities throughout Wales.

This announcement forms part of the Welsh Government’s wider efforts to tackle poverty and inequality and financial and social exclusion in Wales. Whilst the Welsh Government has always been clear it cannot step in and fill all the gaps in funding resulting from cuts in Legal Aid and reductions in other sources of funding for these valuable services, we will align our support with the direction of travel proposed in the Advice Services Review. This funding and the services it will support will make a difference to many people in Wales, especially some of the most vulnerable.

I shall be making an oral statement to the Assembly on 23rd September on the role of advice services in mitigating the impact of Welfare Reform, where I will be expanding on many of these points.