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Suffolk's health bosses step in to support Citizens' Advice after county cuts support

PUBLISHED: 16:35 11 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:54 12 February 2019

Staff and volunteers from Suffolk branches of Citizens Advice outside Endeavour House, Ipswich, ahead of the  Suffolk County Council cabinet meeting discussing funding cuts. Picture: NELLEKE VAN HELFTEREN

Staff and volunteers from Suffolk branches of Citizens Advice outside Endeavour House, Ipswich, ahead of the Suffolk County Council cabinet meeting discussing funding cuts. Picture: NELLEKE VAN HELFTEREN

NELLEKE VAN HELFTEREN

Suffolk's Citizens Advice Bureaux have had their funding restored after the county's health services stepped in to make up the cash cut being planned by the county council.

Nicky Willshire, manager of Citizens' Advice in Ipswich. Picture: GREGG BROWNNicky Willshire, manager of Citizens' Advice in Ipswich. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk had planned to halve its funding to the bureaux in April – reducing the amount it granted them from £374,000 to £187,000 in 2019/2020.

From April 2020 county council financial support for the CABx is due to be abolished completely.

Now the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group have stepped in to match the county’s funding for this year – allowing the CABx to carry on offering services – but their proposal is for one year only.

The health authorities stepped in because they see the work of CABx as vital to intervene before clients have serious mental or physical health problems because of issues in their lives.

Richard Rout Picture: SCCRichard Rout Picture: SCC

Dr Ed Garratt, chief officer for the two CCGs, said: “By working together with our colleagues at the council, we have been able to identify future funding for Citizens Advice. This is a great example of Suffolk’s authorities supporting each other to find solutions.

“We are delighted that we have been able to make this joint announcement before the council approves its budget for this coming financial year, as all parties recognise the positive contributions made by our local Citizens Advice, including to the health and wellbeing of people across Suffolk.”

Richard Rout, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for environment and public protection, said: “It is excellent news that the council and CCGs have worked together across the Suffolk system to arrange this funding for 2019/20 and to build on the relationships that already exist between all parties in Suffolk.

“Since the Council’s initial proposal, I have remained confident that other sources of funding are indeed out there and that our Citizens Advice can continue to provide their valuable services.

Dr Ed Garratt, chief officer of Suffolk’s clinical commissioning groups. Picture: PAGEPIXDr Ed Garratt, chief officer of Suffolk’s clinical commissioning groups. Picture: PAGEPIX

“As previously committed to, I look forward to working with Citizens Advice to explore further funding and transformation opportunities. We will continue to offer our support to consider these in the future.”

Ipswich CAB manager Nicky Willshere said: “While we welcome this short term measure that has been announced by Suffolk County Council and the two CCGs, at this point we do not have any details on this funding and what it means for the ongoing sustainability for our funding.

“Throughout this process we have maintained that any reduction in our funding is a false economy and the reputational damage that the County Council would experience have made this a flawed idea from the outset.

“We are very interested to know what budget proposal is being put to the full council on Thursday – do they still intend to cut the funding 100% in 12 months time or can they now commit to ongoing funding, now that the need for the service has been recognised by the two biggest statutory bodies in the county - from the health and the Social Care perspectives.”

Sarah Adams, Leader of the Labour Group at the county council, said: “I am absolutely delighted for the CABx and their users and I am thrilled that the Labour group were successful in campaigning for this positive outcome.

“However, it is clear that the Tories at Suffolk County Council are in complete disarray.

“It seems a miracle that, just a matter of days after submitting our budget amendment, the Tories have suddenly managed to find the necessary funding – it appears that Theresa May is not the only one who has access to the magic money tree when push comes to shove.

“Let’s be under no illusions, the Conservative leadership have not made this decision because they value the CABx and their work but because of the continuing political fallout.

“(council leader) Matthew Hicks has made more U-turns than a dodgy plumber and it is little wonder that Tory backbenchers are already questioning whether they made the right choice last summer.

“It would also seem that Mr Rout’s position is untenable after spending months proclaiming the virtues of these cuts.

“This is a victory for the residents of Suffolk who have had enough of paying the price for Tory incompetence.”

Liberal Democrat and Green spokesman David Wood also gave a guarded welcome to the news: “We of course welcome this U-turn. Citizens Advice provide an invaluable service, and it’s only right that they should be properly funded.

“It’s just such a shame that Suffolk County Council couldn’t have arranged this sooner. Rather than discussing funding arrangements with partner organisations, the Conservatives attempted to steamroll through a poorly thought out and incredibly harmful policy.

“Now that it is clear how unpopular and damaging this funding cut will be, they’ve backtracked – but in the process they have put CAB managers under an inordinate amount of pressure and have wasted countless hours.

“This could all have been avoided if they had simply taken a collaborative approach to begin with.”

Cllr Nick Gowrley, leader of Mid Suffolk District Council, said: “Citizens Advice is often the only place to which someone in need can turn for help. That support is vital to those that need it. This agreement is therefore very welcome indeed and means our Citizens Advice teams can now plan for next year with certainty. A long-term arrangement is still needed, but with time to discuss it I’m very hopeful that one can be found.”

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