Welsh Government extends funding for debt, employment and benefit advice until March 2021
Llywodraeth Cymru’n estyn cyllid ar gyfer cyngor ar ddyledion, cyflogaeth a budd-daliadau hyd fis Mawrth 2021
In January, the Welsh Government announced the £8.04m Single Advice Fund to enable support services, led by Citizens Advice Cymru, to provide free advice on debt, housing, employment, welfare benefit and other issues until December 2020. This funding has now been extended until March 2021.
The Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt, said:
“It’s vital that the most vulnerable people in our communities have access to free and impartial advice that they can trust, especially during these difficult times.
“Between January and June, more than 52 thousand people in Wales accessed advice services to help solve issues including welfare benefit, employment and debt related problems. During lockdown, advice services adapted to prioritise telephone, email and webchat support, but as restrictions have eased, some face to face services will be resuming.
“It’s really important that people can access free, accurate advice, and the issues people have faced aren’t going away. I’m therefore delighted to confirm that we’ll be continuing to fund Citizens Advice Cymru and their partners until at least March 2021, enabling them to deliver the advice and wraparound support that residents in Wales need to maximise their income, resolve employment issues, and manage debt.”
Rebecca Woolley, Director of Citizens Advice Cymru said:
“The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted just how important it is for people to be able to quickly access accurate and independent advice. We’ve made huge changes to our service to accommodate changing guidelines and make sure that we’re available to people whatever the circumstances.
“We’re delighted that the Welsh Government has extended the Single Advice Fund until March next year. We will continue to work with our partners to support people through any issues, not only Covid-19, to give them the knowledge and confidence they need to find their way forward - whoever they are, and whatever their problem.”
Notes to editors
Case Study 1
Client has had a recent reduction in her income due to child maintenance payments stopping at the end of 2019. She advised that it was unlikely that the maintenance payments would start again in the foreseeable future. The client was reliant on the payments to help pay her bills and had unfortunately over indebted herself. The client was having difficulty budgeting and didn’t know who to pay first and this was affecting her mental health. Client has a support worker and agreed that Citizens Advice (CA) could contact the support worker to ensure that the client was able to participate in the money advice process.
With ongoing support from CA)and help from her support worker they were able to prepare a budget with the client and help her sort out her priority payments for rent, water and energy supply through budgeting. She was advised that she did not have enough income to pay her non-priority creditors the full amounts each month and was given further options. She decided to set up a debt management plan. CA worked with the client and her support worker to help set this up for her through a non-fee charging provider. The client was advised that she would be able to pay off her debts in full in under 3 years. She also advised her about saving for the future once her hire purchase agreements for household items had finished being paid off.
The client has resolved her debt issues at an early stage. Without the advice and support she was provided with her debt issues could have escalated quickly; especially as she was incurring rent arrears and electricity arrears and so potentially could have risked losing her home. The client now has the capability to move forward with her sustainable budget plan and chosen debt option.
The client has become more confident in her money management and overall is
happier and feeling less stressed. The client’s engagement with CA was improved due to working with them through her support worker which is an access partner in the Single Advice Fund. The client would not have been identified as needing support if the access partner was unable to be involved.
Case Study 2
Client is a care leaver who had been sofa surfing with friends because of a relationship breakdown with mum meant he was kicked out of the family home.
Client was concerned he would have nowhere to sleep that night and he contacted Shelter Cymru as it was the last day his friends would allow him to stay.
Shelter Cymru Case worker gave advice on the Housing Wales Act 2014, homelessness assessments, section 73 / 68 duties and the local authority responsibilities during Covid-19. Case worker gave the client the main switchboard number and the out of hours number for the local authority and agreed to email a referral to the LA homeless department straight away given the emergency situation (verbal consent was given for this). In the email, the caseworker advised that the client was concerned that he would have nowhere to sleep that night and an emergency telephone assessment was requested for the client. Acting as an advocate on behalf of the client might have been the difference between accommodation being offered and not that soon.
Email to local authority was sent at 14:43 and temporary accommodation was sourced for the client by 15:05. Caseworker called the client and he confirmed accommodation had been offered and he had accepted it. Client was happy with this and thanked the caseworker. Positive outcome was that the client was no longer at risk of sleeping on the street due to intervention from Shelter Cymru. The client also received a referral to the Citizens Advice line for a benefit check and also further advice about managing money and emergency assistance such as food banks and access to the discretionary assistance fund.
Case Study 3
The client lives with his partner and child in a housing association property. Before covid he worked full time and his partner worked part time, they did not receive any benefits other than child benefit and disability living allowance for their disabled child.
Due to his health conditions he received a letter asking him to shield. His employer put him onto statutory sick pay (SSP), but only paid this for 2 weeks.
The client emailed the coronavirus community resilience hub run by Rhondda Cynon Taff council for support. There is a Citizens Advice Advisor attached to each hub along with a number of other organisations and the advisor who was asked to advise on access to the furlough scheme, and if the family would be entitled to any benefits.
The client was given full advice on the furlough scheme, and helped draft a letter to his employer asking if he could now be placed onto the scheme rather than SSP, and also requesting that SSP be put back into payment. A benefit check was also carried out which showed that the client would now be entitled to Universal Credit, and the client was taken through the steps required to initiate a claim and when the first payment was likely to be made. The client was unsure of his long term prospects
of employment as he had only recently started a new job. He was provided employment advice and advised of the rules around redundancy, and also the possibility of him claiming carers allowance for his child if his work finished. In view of his health conditions, he was also given advice on a PIP claim for himself. The client had credit card debts and was given debt advice and assisted to contact his creditors to access their coronavirus support.
The client made a successful Universal Credit claim and now receives an extra £171 a week. His employer did not agree to furlough, but has reinstated SSP which will pay £95 a week for up to 26 weeks or until he can go back to work. A PIP application has been started which could potentially give the client a further £82 a week. The client now feels financially more secure, at a time where he is already worried about the health of himself and his child this is a major relief. He has a better grasp of how the benefit system works, and which he can access while in work. He also feels more confident dealing with his employment situation, and more confident dealing with his financial situation and knows how to get further advice on his debts if needed in the future.