Jane Hutt, Deputy Minister and Chief Whip
I am issuing this statement to update Members on our continued support for Advice Services.
Single Advice Fund
In the written statement, which I issued on 2 October 2019, I confirmed I had introduced the Single Advice Fund to ensure that the Welsh Government could be confident that it is grant funding strategically planned, quality assured advice services that are delivered by collaborating providers.
The Single Advice Fund services went live in January 2020 and during the period up to the middle of March; services were being delivered from the heart of communities and reaching many people before their problems begin to spiral out of control. However, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic forced the closure of the community based face-to-face services, with providers transferring their advice services to be delivered through remote access channels, e.g., telephone, email, and webchat, etc.
I recently met with some of the providers who are delivering the Single Advice Fund services and was pleased to hear how their collaborative delivery model of Advice Partners and Access Partners has proven invaluable in ensuring some of our most vulnerable citizens have been able to remote access advice services.
During the period, January 2020 to September 2020 over 82,000 people received help through the Single Advice Fund services, tackling often multiple problems with, debts, discrimination, employment housing, and welfare benefits. It is especially pleasing to report that the benefit advice services have helped people to claim over £20 million of additional welfare benefit income.
I am proud of the Welsh Government’s longstanding commitment to financially supporting advice services and I can confirm that I have agreed to extend the current grant funding for the Single Advice Fund to the end of March 2021 and, subject to budget confirmation, I have approved to extend the grant funding for a further 12 months until March 2022.
National Advice Network
The National Advice Network Wales (NAN) was established in 2015 in response to a recommendation in the Welsh Government’s Advice Service Review. The recommendation called upon the Welsh Ministers to create an impartial and expert advisory group to support the strategic development of the advice sector in Wales. In the fulfilment of its advisory role, the NAN helped to draft the Information and Advice Action Plan for Wales, published by the Welsh Government in December 2016.
The NAN has played a key role in overseeing the excellent progress we have made with implementing the commitments within the Information and Advice Action Plan, including the introduction of the Single Advice Fund that fulfils the commitment for the Welsh Government to have a more strategic approach to the grant funding of advice services.
Over the last six months, the NAN has worked with officials to identify and understand the short, medium and long-term impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic upon the advice sector in Wales. To continue with this important work it is important for the NAN to have a period of stability. I therefore met with Mrs Fran Targett, the Chair of the NAN, and offered to extend her period as the Chair until the 31 March 2022. I am pleased that Mrs Targett accepted my offer. I have also invited the individual members of the NAN to remain in their role until the 31 March 2022.
The services being delivered through the Single Advice Fund are excellent examples of how we ensure that the people, who need it most, access the advice and support they require to improve their lives. However, the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to increase the demand for access to advice services and we must maintain our collaborative work with key stakeholders to ensure the policies are in place that will meet the challenges that lie ahead.
 Access partners are a range of third sector organisations who do not deliver advice, but help and support people to engage effectively with the advice process.
 82% of people accessing Single Advice Fund services are from our key priority groups, e.g., older people, BAME communities, people with disabilities, or living with specific health conditions, etc.