Axed debt team could be spared

Wakefield District CAB chief executive Liz Halliday
Wakefield District CAB chief executive Liz Halliday

DEBT advice which is a lifeline for the poor and vulnerable could be temporarily spared the axe after a government U-turn.

Six specialist debt advisors at Wakefield District Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) were given redundancy notices last week after funding from the Financial Inclusion Fund was withdrawn.

The team helps around 900 people every year in the district - and the move sparked criticism from charities and opposition MPs. They argued that rising living costs, unemployment and spiralling personal debt meant there was an increasing need for the service.

Now the government has announced £27m in emergency funding to keep 500 advisors across the UK in post for another 12 months.

But it is not yet known how much of the cash will be allocated to Wakefield. Liz Halliday, chief executive of Wakefield District CAB, on King Street, said the district could still be left with a reduced service.

She said: “We were extremely concerned. The people we help are often from vulnerable groups, have mental health problems, learning difficulties or literacy problems, so they can’t really get the help they need over the telephone.

“Now they government has decided to give us some breathing space for another year, in which time we can have a look at alternative funding arrangements.”

The district CAB’s legal advice service is also protected for three years under a deal with Switalskis Solicitors.

Mrs Halliday added: “Our funding arrangements are complex, we have government funding, money from the local authority and some from various trusts. Most importantly, we have kept the legal aid funding and we are not as badly affected as CABs in other parts of the country.”