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Government finds £27m to save financial inclusion fund

14 February 2011

The government has found £27m in a last-minute move to save the financial inclusion fund from closure and allow law centres and CABx to continue providing specialist debt advice.

Margie Butler, chief executive of the Mary Ward legal centre in London, said the centre received £400,000 a year from the financial inclusion fund, which was due to terminate at the end of next month.

She said she had already issued eight redundancy notices to caseworkers, whose jobs could now be saved.

“Coming up with the full amount for another year is just stunning,” said Butler.

“The government is showing a commitment to face-to-face advice which it had been very reluctant to make, saying instead that advice should be handled on the internet or by phone.

“The government has also said it is committed to finding the funding for a further year, which has left me speechless. It means that we can retain the skilled staff that we need.”

Butler added that, having understood the importance of face-to-face advice, she hoped the government would listen to the centre’s concerns over the legal aid cuts.

Business secretary Vince Cable said it was “vitally important” that everyone had access to free debt advice, and the department for business would provide the £27m necessary to maintain face-to-face debt advice.

“While the government has maintained funding for this programme, it provides only a small part of the revenue necessary to keep the citizens advice network fully functioning,” he said.

“I would like to take this opportunity to call on the other funding streams, such as from local authorities, to help provide whatever support they can to keep this excellent service going.”

Meanwhile, justice secretary Ken Clarke has been bombarded with Valentine’s Day cards from people telling him they love legal aid.

Campaigners from legal aid coalition Justice for All will push more cards through the door of the Ministry of Justice at noon today, the final day for responses to the government’s consultation on its legal aid green paper.

In its response the Bar Council has predicted that the legal aid cuts will result in a flood of litigants in person.

Stephen Cobb QC, chairman of the Family Law Bar Association, said: “We fear these attempted cuts, being so crude and brutal, will cost more than they save.

“They will trigger a surge in DIY litigants which risks gridlock in the courts as they struggle to get justice.”

The Law Society has won the backing of Gurkha campaigner Joanna Lumley for its ‘sound off for justice’ campaign against the legal aid cuts.

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