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24 January 2011

Advice agencies, already facing an uncertain future due to local authority funding cuts and proposed cuts to legal aid, now face a further bitter blow.  The Financial Inclusion Fund (FIF), which pays for 500 debt advisors in Citizens Advice Bureaux and independent advice agencies around the country is to be axed at the end of March.

FIF was set up in 2004 and since then has been helping around 100,000 people a year to cope with their debt problems.  Yet it’s demise – and the potential loss of 500 jobs -  was announced in a two sentence reply to a parliamentary question about it’s future.

Mark Hoban, financial secretary to the treasury,  told tory MP Harriet Baldwin in a written answer on 19 January that:

“The Financial Inclusion Fund will close at the end of March this year. The Government will work closely with industry and other stakeholders to ensure that tackling financial exclusion remains a high priority.”

Given that the coalition also plans to end all legal aid for debt advice, except where individuals are in imminent danger of losing their homes, it seems that thousands of ordinary people facing shorter hours and redundancy and are to be abandoned to face increasing debt unaided.

For some advice agencies, the likely loss of funding for debt advisors, housing workers and welfare rights workers as a result of legal aid cuts along with the axing of FIF may be a burden too great to bear.

Full story from the Legal Action Group