Suffolk County Council’s proposal to remove a £400,000 Citizens Advice grant would be a ‘disaster’ for vulnerable people who need help with social welfare issues, a law centre director has warned.
The cut is revealed in a pre-decision scrutiny paper of the council’s 2019/20 budget, which will be discussed on Thursday.
Councillor Richard Smith, the council’s cabinet member for finance and assets, said: ‘We have some really tough calls to make if we are to balance the budget in the next financial year and beyond. There are no easy options left. What can be in no doubt is that this council remains absolutely committed to supporting the most vulnerable young people and older residents across Suffolk.’
Suffolk Law Centre director Audrey Ludwig said the cut would be a ‘disaster’ for local vulnerable people and would have adverse knock-on effects: ‘We work closely with Citizens Advice charities in Suffolk, taking referrals from them for specialist legal advice. So we know the great work they do for local people needing early advice on debt, welfare benefits and so on.
‘It is an appalling and counterproductive step by Suffolk County Council to end their grant because clients will then turn to council staff like social workers to support them.’
The law centre, which opened to the public this year, was set up after it emerged that East Anglia had become a legal aid advice ‘desert’, with no legal aid providers in public law, housing and asylum law.