Redundancy-threat debt staff reprieved

John Healey MP.
John Healey MP.
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DEBT advisors in South Yorkshire threatened with redundancy are breathing a sigh of relief after the Government announced it would continue funding the service for another year.

Up to 25 debt workers at Sheffield Citizens’ Advice Bureau’s Debt Support Unit were served with redundancy notices after the Government failed to commit to continue funding the service through its Financial Inclusion Fund.

Workers in Barnsley and Rotherham were also facing the axe.

But at the 11th hour, after protests from campaigners, the Government has announced it will continue to fund the face-to-face debt service for another 12 months.

In Sheffield the CAB’s debt advice services are based in Heeley, Sharrow, Foxhill, Firth Park, Manor, Darnall and south east Sheffield.

Funding was due to run out at the end of March – meaning 12 face-to-face debt caseworkers and their administrative support staff, situated in the most deprived areas of Sheffield, would have been axed.

Debt workers were concerned the cuts would force borrowers into the hands of loan sharks and unscrupulous ‘debt-management companies’.

Sheena Hockley, FIF debt and financial capability manager, said: “They have left it very late – just a few weeks before people were about to be out on their ear. But we are incredibly relieved. It looks as if everything is going to stay the same for the next 12 months.”

Sheena said debt advisors were going to be needed more than ever, due to looming public sector redundancies. She said: “I’ve been working in debt advice for 28 years and, year on year, the advice that’s been needed has grown.”

Rotherham MP John Healey said: “This is another example of an ill-thought-through and short-sighted decision the Government have been forced to go back on. I hope the Government do the right thing – stop cutting help for the most vulnerable and keep this support in place permanently.”