45m government funds for free debt advice

As part of the governments strategy to tackle over-indebtedness, consumer minister Gerry Sutcliffe today opened new premises for National Debtline, and called on organisations to bid for a share of 45m to fund free debt advice.

National Debtline, which helps 60,000 people a year find a way out of debt, is moving to a bigger premises after taking on 19 new staff. This brings the total number of full time telephone debt advisers to 64, all based at the new centre.

Sutcliffe says: “As part of the Government’s commitment to this work, we have greatly increased our funding for National Debtline to 1.5m this year, 1.8m in 2006/7 and 2m in 2007/8. The finance community is contributing a similar amount over the same period.

“As well as helping to fund new premises, this money has enabled National Debtline to recruit and train more advisors, and in turn help more people find a way out of debt.”

He also announced that today the government is asking charities and other non-profit organisations to bid for a share of 45m to fund a huge expansion of free, face-to-face debt advice in England and Wales.

The money, made available as part of the Treasury’s Financial Inclusion Fund, will help recruit and train hundreds of new debt advisers to help people find ways of getting their debts back under control.

The money will be particularly targeted at areas and social groups in England and Wales with high levels of financial exclusion, with priority given to organisations with experience of providing debt advice services.

Sutcliffe says: “While many people looking for a way out of debt can be helped over the phone, others find it crucial to have face-to-face advice, which is why the government is funding both types of support.

“Excessive debt can cause misery to families, which is why the government is committed to tackling over-indebtedness. The 45m fund will make a huge difference to those who are most in need of support.”

The move has been well received by lenders. Matt Grayson, a spokesperson for BM Solutions, says: “National Debtline is a great charity, and government support in this particular area is useful in finding solutions to deal with the impact of debt on consumers.

“More money invested in improving financial literacy to prevent people getting into debt in the first place would be also be welcomed. But there are those who get into difficulties through no fault of their own, therefore helplines are always going to be welcomed as having an important role to play.”