The head of Citizens Advice Scotland has hit out at the "morally unacceptable" uncertainty over funding for lifeline advice services.

The Citizens Advice Bureau network is the largest provider of free advice in Scotland, helping close to 175,000 people last year.

However, it faces significant uncertainty due to the short-term nature of its funding, potentially leaving thousands of vulnerable people without access to its services.

A report from the Scottish Energy Insights and Coordination Group (SEIC) has warned about insecurity of funding in the sector.

It said “many advice agencies and advisers themselves operate on short term contracts, with associated short-term bidding, recruitment and reporting all taking time away from service delivery for clients.”

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The group also noted that “funding is typically offered within single financial years; even if funding is renewed, short term contracts make it challenging to offer long term contracts to advisers. This in turn leads to staff turnover, particularly in smaller organisations.”

Such issues make it difficult for local Citizens Advice Bureaus to plan ahead, and can make it difficult to retain certain staff.

The Herald: Derek Mitchell, Chief Executive, Citizens Advice Scotland.DN Anderson

Chief executive Derek Mitchell said: “Stop and start contracts for staff create uncertainty at the end of each financial period: redundancy notices often have to be issued and staff leave, or services have to allocate staff to other projects and services with confirmed funding.

“These are tough jobs, so when there is insecurity around the future of them, because a funder can’t guarantee money beyond a certain date and people end up working without contracts, it’s morally unacceptable.

“We shouldn’t have people advising the public on employment rights when they themselves don’t know if they will have a job in a few months because funders don’t offer certainty. That is unacceptable, regardless of who the funder is.

“My hope is in the years to come we can move beyond the short term, insecure funding arrangements that many agencies are at the mercy of, and governments at all levels see advice services as being the essential service they are, empowering people, unlocking wealth, protecting rights in communities all across the country.”