Charity warns of ‘significant’ cuts as closure prevented at Glasgow advice centres

Citizens Advice Bureaux in Glasgow still face “significant cuts” from the local authority despite councillors rejecting proposals that would have seen five out of eight city CABs close, a charity has warned.

Glasgow City Council voted to approve a ‘transition fund’ which will see immediate cuts to funding for CABs in October, and then a larger cut of around 30% in March.

Some are facing 50% cuts given uncertainty over key services such as Parkhead CAB’s volunteering and employability work which currently lacks funding as the bureaux awaits further discussions with the city council.

Citizens Advice in Glasgow is warning that the impact of these cuts will mean vulnerable people not getting access to advice.

In 2019/20, the eight bureaux in Glasgow helped 23,000 people issuing over 70,000 pieces of advice, generating over £20 million in client financial gains.

A 30% reduction in bureaux capacity could see as many as 7,000 people miss out at a time when Glaswegians will face rising unemployment and debt issues.

Frank Mosson, manager of Bridgeton Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “While the money approved by Glasgow City Council is welcome it still leaves all organisations facing at least a 30% cut from next March. Of grave concern is the news that Parkhead CAB has a 50% cut in their previous funds and we are seeking further clarity from officers.

“This will have a serious impact upon the most vulnerable in our communities who seek to access our services, particularly as unemployment increases, the furlough scheme winds down and debt rises.

“Thousands of people will not be able to access our free advice just as it is needed most.

“Our message to the public, who have been overwhelming in their support in recent weeks, is that our doors are still open and for the rest of the year we’ll work to ensure people can get the advice they need. But there is a real risk in the next year that we simply won’t be able to cope with demand given the reductions we’ll be seeing.

“The potential knock-on effects for that for other social services in the city, including the health services, housing and social work, will just increase the strain over all.”

The vote follows new data from Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) which shows how different people are receiving help from Citizens Advice Bureaux for the first time.

The latest monthly data report published by the charity shows that 79,235 pieces of advice were issued by Citizens Advice Bureaux in August, which is the highest number in a single month since March.

Further to this, 85% of people seeking employment advice between April and August had never before contacted their local Citizens Advice Bureau. 

Figures published by the Office of National Statistics this week showed the unemployment rate grew to 4.1% in the three months to July and 695,000 UK workers have disappeared from the payrolls of companies since March.

Meanwhile, 77% of those seeking housing advice in the same period were new to the Citizens Advice network.

The data also shows that new clients seeking support from a Citizens Advice Bureau for the first time are more likely to be younger, owner-occupiers and in employment than those who had visited a CAB before lockdown.

CAS financial health spokesperson, Myles Fitt, said: “The impact of coronavirus across different parts of society has been laid bare by this report. 

“Not only does it show that the number of people seeking help from the Citizens Advice network in Scotland continues to rise, it shows that an increasing proportion are contacting their local Citizens Advice Bureau for the first time.

“By just glancing at our data it’s crystal clear that thousands of people across the country are worried about issues including employment rights, housing, debt and benefits, and we’re concerned that the numbers will only keep increasing.”

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