Charities hit out at proposed funding cuts to Glasgow advice agencies

Proposed funding cuts that will close five of Glasgow’s eight Citizens Advice Bureaux will cost communities millions of pounds, new analysis has revealed.

Glasgow City Council will vote this Thursday on proposals to cut funding for advice services in the city, which would close bureaux in Bridgeton, Castlemilk, Easterhouse, Parkhead and Glasgow Central and drastically reduce services at the remaining three in Drumchapel, Glasgow North West, and Pollok.

Data released yesterday shows that, since lockdown, the eight Glasgow bureaux have helped provided 35,780 pieces of advice, helping 8,866 people, with a client financial gain of over £6.4 million. That works out to an average financial gain per client in Glasgow of £727.

Citizens Advice in Glasgow is warning that the devastating impact of the cuts, which would come into force in October, would see thousands of vulnerable people fall through the cracks.

There has been a widespread backlash to the proposals, with a petition gaining over 3,000 signatures at the time of release.

Frank Mosson, manager of Bridgeton Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “The saying goes that people make Glasgow, but these cuts would make Glasgow’s people worse off.

“CABs deliver exceptional results for the poorest and most vulnerable people in Glasgow, putting millions back into people’s pockets which are then spent in local communities.

“These proposals from Glasgow City Council would wipe out any advice provision in the east end of the city, in Castlemilk, and massively reduce provision elsewhere.

“For this to happen in the middle of a global pandemic, as the furlough scheme winds down, would be absolutely devastating for the people of Glasgow.

“There is still time for Glasgow City Council to rethink these cuts. They would do horrible damage to the most vulnerable in our society.”

Homeless Action Scotland described the proposals as “wrongheaded” and “utterly bizarre” and said councillors must be prepared to resign if homelessness increases in the city in the aftermath of the cuts.

In a message on its website, it added: “At a time when issues like debt, poverty and housing stability are at the forefront of people’s minds to even propose to cut support makes no sense whatsoever.”

The charity pointed to a study from Bath University which found that for every £1 spent on CABx, and other advice agencies, over £50 was generated over five years.

It said: “Does the leadership of Glasgow City Council know that? Did they even look? Do they understand the value advice agencies add to the local economy and individual citizens?”

The statement added: “Homeless Action Scotland understand that local authorities across Scotland have choices to make in how to allocate funding to those who are in need. However, we fail to understand in what way it can be deemed as appropriate that organisations that work to stop evictions, end rough sleeping, manage debts and all too frequently challenge Department of Work and Pensions’ erroneous decisions on vulnerable persons’ income can be a valid option.

“The last financial year, to April 2020, Glasgow City Council failed to accommodate 3835 people. This was an increase of 445 from the 3390 people whose rights to accommodation were ignored the year before. This amounts to more than 10 people a day denied their basic legal right to accommodation.

“As has been widely reported in the media, Glasgow City Council is one of the worst in exercising their legal obligation to accommodate people who require homelessness support. Something which has been long recognised by the Scottish Government, almost all leading third sector organisations and the Scottish Housing Regulator. That Glasgow City Council is choosing to cut services which challenge this series of unlawful actions is shameful and vindictive. We find it problematic that organisations that have a rich history in defending the citizens of Glasgow from unlawful decisions made in the name of its leaders are the very ones that are faced with the biggest cuts.

“Glasgow City Council along with many other public bodies rightfully condemned the horrendous practices of SERCO on behalf of the Home Office. While Glasgow City Council were talking about how terrible it was, organisations such as Govan Law Centre, Legal Services Agency, Shelter Scotland and many more were fighting these unlawful evictions. These services now face drastic cuts to their funding from Glasgow City Council. In good conscience, GCC cannot simultaneously condemn the practice of a public body which dehumanises the most vulnerable in our society while at the same time cutting the funding from the very organisations which protects our most vulnerable.

“During the SERCO scandal the Glasgow City Council leader, Susan Aitken, wrote to the Home Office condemning the evictions. The leader of GCC is now presiding over a series of cuts to services which used funding from the council to stop illegal evictions from SERCO. The advice sector in Glasgow hasn’t only kept people in their homes, helped people to acquire a home and ensured that people received the benefits they were entitled to, they have literally saved people’s lives.

“Law Centres and CABx don’t just help with housing and homelessness, they help get justice for those who are erroneously stripped of their benefits. They support people who no one else will help. They break down barriers of injustice, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, sexuality, disability, political affiliation or any other identity that a person or family feels is important to them. Law Centres and CABs are the lifeblood of our communities. If we do not think that our taxes should be paid to support, help and empower people who really need it, then what are our taxes for?

“Glasgow has a rich history in ensuring that people facing homelessness or eviction have an organisation or legal representation to defend them. This is a tradition of which Glasgow should be rightly proud. Glasgow is perhaps the only city in Scotland which has a history of widespread, popular support for people facing eviction or exclusion from accessing homelessness services. Sticking up for the “wee man” has always been an aspect of Glaswegian support for their fellow citizens. It is something to be proud of.

“If you live in Glasgow and, like us, object strongly to these unfair cuts you need to get in contact with your local councillor to inform them of your opposition to their proposal.

“More widely, we believe that Glasgow’s example of cutting funding to services at the point that they most need support is evidence that there is now more than ever a need for a nationally-funded law/advice centre movement across the whole country. We need this so that each citizen in Scotland can defend their homes, ensure they acquire the correct benefits, and get the help and support they need.

“If we are serious about preventing homelessness and ensuring people’s basic rights are upheld, the first step needs to be for Scotland to join us in standing up and demanding that all the CABx and Law Centres in Glasgow are saved.”

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