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The Government is axing funding from the Financial Inclusion Fund

After months of nail biting and gloomy speculation it’s definite. The Government is axing funding from the Financial Inclusion Fund for specialist debt advisers in England and Wales. The timing is impeccable. There are queues outside any organisation that offers debt advice. Demand is higher than it’s ever been. The Money Advice Trust expects requests for help to reach a record 1.6 million this year.01-02-2011
Organisations that have embraced web technology have come up with terrifically useful interactive debt advice/do-it-yourself get-out-of-the-red online tools (mymoneysteps and Debt Remedy to name but two) and yet there are growing queues. And that’s before the public sector spending cuts really show their true colours.
Any government has to look at whether or not the money it hands out results in the best possible outcomes. But there’s no doubt that over the years these 500 or so specialist advisers have earned their keep and kept hundreds of thousands of cash strapped debtors afloat.
If a client needs face-to-face advice – and not all are confident enough to use self-help tools or have access to them online – they may need a vast range of help. Money advice covers anything from a straight forward budget showing how to manage the money you’ve got, to help arranging reduced repayments to several creditors, or avoiding having your home repossessed and the utilities disconnected.
With a good adviser involved creditors get some payments where they might easily have had none. Good advice can help people straighten themselves out enough to hold onto their jobs, relationships and health. 
Debt has a huge social impact in terms of the immediate consequences of making people, stressed, un-productive, and unable to work and pay tax. Many become ill, mentally ill or dependent on drink and drugs. People facing long term unemployment loose confidence and self-esteem and find it ever harder to get back into work even when jobs do become available. They loose their homes and families split up.
There are also long term implications. If you’re in debt you can’t save in a pension, help your children through university, protect yourself against the costs of long term care or keep yourself healthy. In the long term the government not only looses the money you would have paid in tax and National Insurance but has to pay for your care home costs and supplement your pension. You won’t be able to afford to help it keep the economy buoyant by spending your well planned retirement income. Even when people do get back into employment after a spell out of work it can take years to build their income and career prospects back to the point at which they were made unemployed. And all the time they’re still trying to grapple with their debts.
Debt is set to be the biggest problem our society has to face for the next 10 years. A lot of time, money and human resources have gone into education people about money over the last 15 years. There are financial education programmes for schools, financial literacy and capability programmes for adults. The aim has been to help people understand and manage their money so that they avoid getting in debt when times get hard. If funding for debt advice is cut any money available will get diverted away from these really important and valuable projects. This is no time to cut the funding that keeps the cost effect, mostly volunteer run charity and not-for profit organisations at the forefront of debt advice.   
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