The future of advice services: the perfect storm


We are pleased to publish a full report of our meeting:
A perfect storm: changes to the funding of the advice sector

The future of advice services in London proved a key issue for funders when London Funders convened a meeting to explore this part of the funding landscape, on 18 January. Members expressed keen interest in developing a work group to follow-up key learning points from the event. More information to follow shortly. The full report available here.

See below for an executive summary identifying strategies which can be pursued by funders and advice services (individually and collectively) to maintain and improve income:

1. work currently funded services harder, e.g.
a. by using advisers’ time efficiently
b. ensuring their advice is of the highest quality
c. targeting face-to-face advice (the most expensive provision) at those who really need it and encourage the use of on-line or telephone advice for those who can cope with it
2. fund campaigning work
3. share examples and outcomes from the best local authority funding since this is a really important part of the patchwork
4. pull in other sources of money by thinking laterally, e.g. health funders by setting out the health benefits of access to advice
5. push the boundaries of legal aid
6. find opportunities to charge for giving advice, e.g. set up spot purchase arrangements with institutional clients
7. develop local social impact bonds or other vehicles for raising new resources
8. make better use of pro bono support from the private sector (e.g. use telephone advice from private sector solicitors rather than expecting them to attend VCS advice centres)
9. early action or acting “one step sooner”: using the principle that early intervention saves problems growing and saves resources, support services which reach people at an earlier stage in their need for support
10. learn systems thinking: check why a need for advice has arisen and try to nip further recurrences in the bud.
At the meeting we also heard a powerful report from Alison Garnham of Child Poverty Action Group about the impact of looming welfare benefits change on Londoners and London’s advice services. We heard how LB Camden has radically changed its advice services commissioning and learned about the early stages of the new Strategic Legal Fund. Funders at the meeting put their heads together about how to respond to the crisis facing advice in London and were inspired by each other’s ideas about investment in this field.