13 March 2007
Citizens Advice, the national umbrella body for Citizens Advice Bureaux, has pulled out of a controversial partnership deal with the Shaw Trust to help administer the DWP's Pathways to Work scheme.
Under the agreement with the Shaw Trust, Citizens Advice would have provided welfare benefits and debt advice to claimants forced to participate in a series of six work-focused interviews designed to get more disabled people into paid employment. The plan aroused anger amongst individual Citizens Advice Bureaux because of the perceived threat to their reputation for independence from government departments. (See: Citizens Advice applies to help cut disabled benefits).
However, according to an internal document seen by Benefits and Work, Citizens Advice have pulled out, not because of concerns for their reputation, but because there wasn't enough cash available. According to the document ' . . . it became clear that the sum of monies available for the programme was not sufficient to fund additional independent advice and holistic support services."
Whilst the withdrawal of the threat to their independence will be good news for bureaux, the revelation that the Pathways scheme is not sufficiently well funded to allow accurate benefits advice to be offered can only be bad news for claimants.