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BIG and Cabinet Office Open £65m Advice Services Fund

The Cabinet Office and Big Lottery Fund have announced a £65m transition fund for advice charities affected by cuts to legal aid and other advice service budgets.

The Advice Services Transition Fund, which was mooted in the March Budget, will provide funding for two years from 2013/14 and will require applicants to modernise, collaborate with other organisations and form partnerships to ensure their long-term sustainability.

They must have plans in place to “improve efficiency, resilience and quality of service over the long term”. BIG and the government are stumping up half of the money each. Grants will be a minimum of £50,000 and a maximum of £350,000, to be spent over two years.  The application deadline is 28 January and the programme is intended to fund around 300 projects.

Dharmendra Kanani, Big Lottery Fund director for England, said: “Getting the right advice at the right time can be a lifeline for people and communities most in need. Current services are struggling to keep up with increasing demand and the greater complexity in the types of problems people are facing.

“Times are tough for advice providers and for people at the thin end of the wedge. This is a chance to invest in much-needed transformation of services so that they can adapt, respond to need and survive.”

Alongside the launch of the transition fund, the government has published a review of the not-for-profit social welfare advice sector in England. This report concludes that the government has a role to play in supporting the sector to adapt to the new funding realities, but advice providers will also need to take the initiative and change the way they work.

The report recommends that advice organisations should:
•    collaborate more
•    take early action to prevent the problems which cause people to seek advice
•    diversify their funding streams and service provision
•    demonstrate their impact more effectively
•    use all appropriate channels to reach those in need of support
•    In response to the news, Navca's chief executive Joe Irvin welcomed the fund but pointed out that the advice sector was facing challenges because of government cuts to legal aid and local authority advice service budgets.

He added: "It should never be forgotten that, according to Advice UK, around 30 to 40 per cent of all advice work is caused by preventable failures by statutory services."

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