Council Cuts Benefits Advice Funding and Gives Cash to Brexit Support

Labour say funding reduction makes no sense and must be stopped

Wandsworth Council are proposing cuts in funding to the benefits advice services currently offered by Citizens’ Advice Wandsworth (CAW) and the St George's Mental Health Trust. At the same time extra cash is being given to support advice to EU citizens in the borough affected by Brexit.

The proposals could see both lifeline advice services lose £54,000. This comes at a time when demand for the Citizens Advice service has grown from 7,000 in 2015 to 9,800 in 2016, and is expected to reach 11,000 by 2017.

Labour are fighting against the 10% funding cut saying that it affects the borough's most vulnerable residents at the worst possible time.

The cutbacks could lead to a change in services in Roehampton with the Advice service seeking a new location. They could also mean less face-to-face contact with clients.

Cllr. Andy Gibbons, Wandsworth Labour Finance spokesman said, "These cuts must be stopped. They come at exactly the wrong time, with the Government’s Universal Credit causing hardship for families on low incomes. These services are a lifeline when people get into financial difficulties and they provide good value for money for the council. I fear if the services are cut the council will still have to provide the service at a much higher cost to the local council tax payer. It makes no sense.

"We have heard the Conservative government talk about the importance of supporting people with mental health issues, but here their flagship council is cutting a much needed-benefits advice service."

A Council report describes both services as ‘performing well’ – the CAW secured £2million for their clients in 2016. The Mental health Benefits advice service is reported to have raised £1.16million for users and carers and secured £1.28 for every £1 invested by the Council.

A council spokesman said, “We work closely with Citizens Advice Wandsworth and the mental health trust and support them both with an annual sum of around £550,000 so they can offer important help and advice to Wandsworth residents. We have also just agreed to provide CAW with a further £30,000 so they can give Wandsworth based EU citizens advice on their rights post-Brexit, which is a great addition to local services.

“We do of course always look at ways of maximising efficiencies to ensure our residents get value for their money and are in the early stages of negotiations to help them improve the way they work so we can deliver savings for our taxpayers without affecting frontline services.

“We are supportive of better digital and online services which will reduce back office costs and offer a more responsive and convenient service for many residents. We are clear that vulnerable people and those with highly complex problems remain a priority for the service and we are committed to working with these providers to ensure that our residents who need this help continue to get all the support they need."

December 1, 2017