Funding of up to £3.25 million is to be made available for a three-year programme to support access to debt advice in Scotland, it was announced today.
The Debt Advice Journey Programme will fund projects designed to improve access to free debt advice by assisting with the development of changes to working practices that help manage demand on services and improve people’s experience of seeking advice.
The Covid-19 pandemic presents new challenges for the advice sector. Agencies have been rapidly refocusing working practices to enable continuity of advice and the impact of the pandemic may lead to a long-term increase in the need for formal debt advice solutions to be provided remotely.
The funding forms part of the Financial Services Levy for debt advice allocated by the Scottish Government. The programme will be managed by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) to make funding available to test ideas that assist clients and allow existing debt advice staff to achieve a more effective resolution of debt problems within free advice services.
The Debt Advice Journey Programme objectives are to manage demand for debt advice and improve ways of working at key stages of the delivery of debt advice in free advice services. This work builds on the direction set out by Scottish Government through the Debt Advice Routemap which includes a vision for future allocation of the Scottish debt advice levy funds.
Applications for funding will be invited by SLAB shortly, with up to £650,000 available this year and up to £1.3million available in the two subsequent years. Successful projects will run to March 2023.
SLAB will welcome applications from agencies that provide free debt advice and access to statutory debt remedies, including Citizens Advice Bureau, independent advice agencies, law centres and local authorities.
Colin Lancaster, Chief Executive of the Scottish Legal Aid Board, said:
“SLAB was delighted to be asked to manage a new grants programme at this time of upheaval and change, with the Covid-19 pandemic likely to lead not only to an increase in the need for debt advice from people in Scotland but also to challenges to the ways that advice can be delivered.
“The Debt Advice Journey Programme is a good opportunity for debt advice agencies to apply to test new ways of working to manage demand. The funding is an opportunity for agencies to find the space to implement an intervention to benefit users, including staff who provide frontline help and those who are seeking advice.”
Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, said:
“The longer-term impact of Coronavirus (Covid-19) is likely to lead to increased demand on debt advice services so I am pleased that our funding will ensure this vital programme will enable people to access help and advice in a more effective way.
“This is an important part of the Scottish Government’s Debt Advice Routemap and will support the advice sector to respond to issues of problem debt.”