The Welsh Government has offered not-for-profit organisations that provide free advice services £1.872 million of extra money to adapt to the increased demand for their services as they face cuts in their funding.
Communities and Tackling Poverty Minister Huw Lewis has challenged the sector to change as people face the full impact of the struggling economy and changes to welfare.
The move comes after the publication of a review into the sector that provides people with advice on issues such as debt, housing, employment and welfare benefits.
Organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau, Shelter Cymru and Consumer Focus Wales provide such services, but the sector is expected to lose around £3.36 million from various sources over the next eighteen months with the equivalent of 50 full time jobs disappearing.
Ministers commissioned the review due to the unprecedented pressures faced by such organisations given the reduction in their funding, alongside the rising demand for advice in the current economic climate.
The review highlighted the need to remove the duplication of services and bureaucratic burden and ensure that services are targeted where the need is the greatest.
Speaking after meeting representatives of the sector, Huw Lewis said: “Free advice services are more important than ever given the current economic climate and the impact welfare changes are having on whole communities. Thousands of people rely on this specialist, expert advice, but the reality is their funding is being squeezed at the very time when more people are turning to them for help.
“That is why I am pleased to announce £1.872 million of extra funding for the sector to help them face this challenge and continue to help people. However, the recent review shows that free advice services must change and adapt, especially at a time of cuts in public spending. I want the sector to do all it can to address issues of duplication and coverage to make sure all communities across Wales can access help.
“The Welsh Government will not be able to take on the burden of funding all services, but I want to make sure people do not fall through the cracks given the changes. Organisations and volunteers across the country work tirelessly to help some of the most vulnerable in our society, but free advice services will have to change. Firstly to justify continued taxpayer support and secondly to make sure people who need help can get it. This will be a difficult process but the sector’s track record shows they can do it.”
Organisations are being invited to bid for the new funding.