Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling announces extra help for consumers struggling to cope with their family finances in his pre-budget report.
The government is to support debt advice organisations through additional spending of £5.85 million on telephone help services and £10 million on face-to-face advice. Much of the extra cash will be directed towards the services offered by Citizens Advice. The spending will be complemented by a new online advice website.
Citizens Advice Director of Policy Teresa Perchard said, ‘We are delighted that Citizens Advice is to get a boost of £10 million to increase local CAB services. With this money Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales should be able to help up to 335,000 more people a year, an increase of 17%. It will make it possible for at least 322 bureaux to open at least five hours extra a week to provide advice to clients both face-to-face and over the phone. We have seen significant increases in problems with fuel debt, bank and building society overdrafts, council tax arrears and water bill arrears. Access to reliable, high quality, free, independent advice has never been more vital.’
Which? debt expert Martyn Saville added, ‘Any expansion of the free, independent debt advice sector is to be welcomed. Consumers struggling with debt should avoid commercial debt management companies and should seek free expert advice as soon as they realise they are struggling. There is absolutely no reason to pay for debt advice when better advice is available for free, whether it’s from Citizens Advice, the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, National Debtline or another impartial, free-to-access advice organisation.
For more information, see the Which? guide to dealing with debt and the Which? guide to coping with the credit crunch.
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