I have had no recent discussions with ministerial colleagues on the future funding of front-line services provided by citizens advice bureaux. However, the DTI and the Treasury work closely together on the administration of the £47.5m face-to-face debt advice project that is funded from the Treasury’s financial inclusion fund.
DTI backing for face-to-face advice is most welcome. The Minister will know that Citizens Advice annually provides a vital, trusted, value-for-money lifeline to about 2.5 million people, with 6 million problems, nationwide. It also helps to deliver the Government’s agenda of eliminating poverty, preventing homelessness, improving health and well-being and reducing reoffending. Does my hon. Friend agree, however, that there is still a significant unmet need for telephone, weekend and online services, and that continued support for—and strategic Government investment in—Citizens Advice will lead to major social and economic benefits?
I certainly agree with my hon. Friend, and I am sure that all right hon. and hon. Members admire and respect the work that the citizens advice bureaux undertake. I can advise my hon. Friend that, last week, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury announced a new financial inclusion fund for the next spending period. The DTI will be part of a cross-departmental ministerial working group that will determine fund priorities and publish a detailed action plan after the comprehensive spending review. I am sure that my hon. Friend will supply details of the difficulties that he has outlined, and that the working party will look at them so that they can be resolved in due course.