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Government ‘committed’ to reviewing funding of debt advice services

The cost-of-living crisis is causing an increased need for money advice services (Peter Byrne/PA)
The cost-of-living crisis is causing an increased need for money advice services (Peter Byrne/PA)

The Scottish Government is committed to reviewing funding for debt advice services as people face increasing problems, MSPs have been told.

Holyrood’s Social Justice and Social Security Committee took evidence as part of its inquiry into low income and debt problems on Thursday.

Committee member Pam Duncan-Glancy highlighted that money advice services have recently seen cuts to their funding, and asked if the Government accepts more access to assistance is required as the cost-of-living crisis worsens.

Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison replied: “It is important to note that for 2022/23, the Scottish Government is investing over £12 million to support the provision of free income maximisation and welfare and debt advice.”

Shona Robison
Shona Robison said she is aware of the pressure currently facing money advice services (PA)

But Ms Robison acknowledged the pressure that the sector is under, and said a framework for Government-funded services would be required as it aims to tackle the problem.

This would go beyond debt advice to provide “accessible, holistic” services, she added.

She said: “We’re committed to reviewing the way advice is funded by the Scottish Government, and we’re awaiting advice on a refreshed approach later this year that is going to take account of, for example, the improvement services work on funding models for the debt advice levy.

“We understand the pressures, we are looking at how best we can address those, and I think funding is just one component of that.

“But we are aware, and I want to put on record my thanks for all the work that the advice services are doing at this moment in time.”

The minister also said she recognises the “important” role the use of social prescribing can play in helping people with financial problems.

Ms Robison said community link workers do a “really crucial job” in providing non-medical support within general practices across Scotland.

“We know that someone may present to their GP with stress and mental health issues,” Ms Robison said.

“What underlies that though are worries about money, about debt, and being able to then signpost someone in the here and now just along the corridor to someone who can help to look at the money situation, look at entitlements, help look at options around debt management, is so, so important.”

She added that the experiences and insight provided by the community link workers is “crucial” for the ability to plan future policies.