On Talk Money Week, it’s sad to report that funding is set to be cut from the debt advice industry, potentially making almost all services a virtual experience.
The government has increased money going into the debt advice sector from £55m to £71m, through the course of the pandemic, but the money that was pushed into local services is set to be halved. That added windfall is largely going into three national call centres.
Debt advisors, like ourselves, believe face-to-face appointments can help break down barriers between people who are scared about discussing their debts. Almost 4-million households in the UK are behind on some form of payment, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and they are going to need the assistance of free debt advice to help them out of the hole that they are in.
Complex debt problems have risen dramatically during the pandemic. This includes having a combination of problems such as debt, mental illness and housing issues, for example.
The Money and Pensions Service (MaPs) believes that there is no substantial evidence to suggest face-to-face appointments. Almost all appointments made in the pandemic were done virtually, adhering to the coronavirus restriction policies that were in place throughout that period of time.
However, local debt advice firms believe that the organisation is letting their concerns fall on deaf ears.
Sylvia Simpson, the chair of Leeds Debt Advice Network, told The Guardian: “The impact [of these changes] will be catastrophic.” She says that the nine specialist debt advisors within Leeds could be reduced to three as a result of the cuts. This could lead to business closures for any firms that are heavily reliant on funding from MaPs.
GPs are also in a controversial situation whereby they are mootting making most appointments virtual. The new-normal that we are walking into will come with an emphasis on technology that we hadn’t become accustomed to using until the pandemic. This means that many organisations could see virtual meetings as a new, more cost-effective method of getting people together and sorting things out.
Money Support Group has a WhatsApp support group, a free phone service and a bunch of wonderfully dedicated and friendly debt advisors – all of whom have your best interests at heart. We will always try to make your experience as comfortable as possible, whether that is face-to-face or not.