Caithness Map :: Links to Site Map Great value Unlimited Broadband from an award winning provider  


Review of Debt advice and related services

20th October 2017

The Council has a legal duty to provide certain advice and information services on debt, welfare and housing for local residents. Employment rights advice is also provided but there is no statutory duty on the Council to provide this.

There will also be a duty from next year for strategic public authorities to do more to tackle persistent inequalities of outcome caused by socio-economic disadvantage.

In Scotland, it is estimated that in 2015-16 880,000 people (17% of the population) were living in poverty, up from the previous year. Overall, it is estimated that 19% of young people in Scotland live in poverty.

In Highland, wages in remote and rural areas in particular are below the equivalent of the national living wage. This combines in some areas with an over-reliance on seasonal employment and contributes to ‘in-work poverty'. Affordable housing and childcare are significant factors in the cost of living in Highland, and there have been recent increases in fuel poverty in the region.

It is important to recognise that households experience poverty in different ways and to various degrees over their lifecycle. Additionally, the need for advice and support in response to life events is greater among those in poverty than for wealthier households. Households experiencing poverty have fewer financial or other resources, for example skills or social networks, to access in times of crisis. This constrains viable options and intensifies the impact of changes when they occur.

It is essential that quality local advice and information services are available and are capable of addressing problems as a whole. The Highland Council provides a range of debt advice and related services including Debt Advice (sometimes known as Money Advice); Welfare Advice / Income Maximisation (helping customers claim all the benefits to which they are entitled); Housing Advice (e.g. tenancy disputes); and Employment Rights (e.g. employee disputes with their employer).

In the light of the financial and demand pressures, the Council agreed a budget saving in December 2014 of £0.130m for 18/19 for the provision of debt advice.

At the Highland Council meeting of 9 March 2017, Members agreed to undertake a wide ranging review of these services.

Responses to various stakeholder consultation exercises provided evidence for the review. Throughout the consultation process a recurring priority for customers has been the need for advice and information to deliver services which are accessible and take account of a customer's individual circumstances. This has been especially apparent in the more rural areas within Highland.

The key findings from the review include:

an emphasis on the need for services to be accessible and flexible in their method and means of delivery in order to meet people's individual requirements;

a need for improved awareness raising of advice and information services amongst the public;

ensure the customer is at the heart of service design and delivery;

a clearer understanding by local advice and information services in relation to what other agencies operate in Highland to enable a more efficient approach to meeting customers’ needs including correct signposting, referral and effective collaborative inter-agency working;

consideration of the impact of the continued welfare changes on people’s increasing need to access information and advice services.

Members of the People Committee agreed the report’s recommendations, including an amendment to take the savings over a period of two years - in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

Vice-Chair of the People Committee, Councillor Kate Stephen said: "Quality advice and information is essential to help people who are struggling with poverty and this information needs to be readily and easily accessible to all.

"It is clear that the Council needs to work collaboratively with other agencies and the future delivery of advice and information services need to be pro-active and adopt a preventative approach to poverty by identifying needs and making referrals or signposting people where appropriate. It is also vital to prepare our young people for the future with financial education."

She added: "It is challenging to make savings in this area but we have to balance our budget. I welcome the decision to spread the savings to be taken over two years and this will allow time for the service to make changes."

The full report and recommendations can be found at:

item 18

For Debt advice and information on how to manage your money


Related Businesses


Related Articles

Interim elections for Highland Community CouncilsThumbnail for article : Interim elections for Highland Community Councils
Nominations are being invited from people seeking election onto eight community councils across the Highlands.   The resignation of some members have brought the following six community council's down to below half of their memberships so interim elections have been called in order to fill the vacancies.  
Helping businesses and third sector supply to the public sectorThumbnail for article : Helping businesses and third sector supply to the public sector
The Highland Council and its Commercial and Procurement Shared Services partners Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils are running a series of events to help businesses supply to the public sector.   Some of the events are hosted by other organisations and we will be signposting suppliers to these as well.  
Leader Of Highland Council Speaks After Budget Process LeaksThumbnail for article : Leader Of Highland Council Speaks After Budget Process Leaks
Leader of the Highland Council, Margaret Davidson has moved to reassure communities about forthcoming budget decisions.   She said: "No decisions will be made until the Council meets on 15 February.  
Highland Council Revises Budget Figures But Still Anticipates Big CutsThumbnail for article : Highland Council Revises Budget Figures But Still Anticipates Big Cuts
At Highland Council work has been ongoing for some months to prepare a Revenue and Capital Budget for 2018/19 and beyond, with the anticipation of a significant cut to available funds.   The Scottish Government's proposed grant settlement was announced on 14 December 2017.  
Highland Residents To Benefit From Pioneering Fithomes Thanks To £3m City-region Deal WindfallThumbnail for article : Highland Residents To Benefit From Pioneering Fithomes Thanks To £3m City-region Deal Windfall
Around £3 million of funding has been agreed for a ground-breaking Highland project that could transform the lives of people with complex health needs as part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal.   The business case for the ‘FitHome' assisted living project was approved in November last year with £3m funding from the Scottish Government.  
The staggering true scale of council job cutsThumbnail for article : The staggering true scale of council job cuts
An article in the Press and Journal today 9th January 2018 highlights the cuts in staffing levels across Scottish councils with Highland being one of the highest.   In 2009 Highland had 9953 Full-time Equivalent Staff and in 2017 it had dropped by 21% to 7838.  
Highland Businesses Urged To Be On Scam Alert
Highland Council Trading Standards team has recently seen an increase in scams targeting Highland businesses.   The most common scams reported by businesses relate to marketing and publishing but other frauds such as those involving demands for payment for unsolicited goods sent to businesses (such as ink cartridges which were never ordered) are also on the rise.  
Permanent Extension To Blue Badge Scheme CriteriaThumbnail for article : Permanent Extension To Blue Badge Scheme Criteria
Cognitive improvements to be included in Blue Badge scheme The disabled person's parking badge pilot, which was launched in April 2016, has been made permanent by the Scottish Government.   The eligibility criteria were revised and extended under a pilot to allow carers and relatives of people who pose a risk to themselves or others in traffic to apply for a disabled person's parking badge, provided they meet the criteria.  
Stay safe with New Year sales advice from Trading Standards
People looking to pick up a New Year bargain in the sales on the internet, by mail order or on the high street are being encouraged by The Highland Council's Trading Standards team to be aware of their consumer rights and to stay safe online from scams and fake websites that try to dupe inexperienced online shoppers trying to buy a bargain.   Consumers have extra protection when they shop online.  
Scottish Government rules out ‘tourist tax' measures
The British Hospitality Association secured a major victory today (21 December2017) as the Scottish Government confirmed that any plans for a ‘tourist tax' in Edinburgh - or any other Scottish cities - are firmly off the table.  The BHA has been campaigning consistently for over six years against the implementation of any such additional and uncompetitive tax and is delighted that the Scottish Government has recognised our reservations.  

[Printer Friendly Version]