In a nutshell the Financial Inclusion Fund provides much of the cash to debt counselling agencies – including Citizens Advice (CAB), to allow them to keep working and providing free help. The fund was under threat this year, but thankfully after much lobbying (including by this site – see my past blog, Don’t cut £25m of debt counselling – how to campaign against the Financial Inclusion Fund closure) it was maintained.
I asked the Minister if at the end of this year, we could be sure the same desperate situation wouldn’t happen again, as both the risk to funds and the planning nightmare for the various help agencies could leave them with an uncertain future, and perhaps a need to make redundancies.
His commitment was unequivocal: "I guarantee we will ensure that last year’s problems will not happen again, the funding will be there" – which is the first guarantee I’ve heard on the fund’s future. He then assured the room that the funding would likely come from a levy on banks and there would be no gap in funding while it happened.
A CAB representative (called Laura) then followed up to note that the problem isn’t just the FIF, but also about local council cuts to debt counselling funding, which he acknowledged was an issue but one that was being looked at too.
So there you go. I think Ed Davey is pretty committed to the job as Consumer Minister and seems to care. But even so, there’s no harm in having this written down on record as a contemporaneous note. Hopefully we can count it as a binding commitment.
PS. Just a quick hello to the lady I met at the Lib Dem conference who’s on the women’s committee there – she was printing out vouchers from MSE and handing them out to delegates to ensure they got a cheap lunch – go you!