A collaborative debt advice system
The TPDG identified clear benefits to increased collaboration, including smoother user journeys around the advice system, expertise focused where they are most needed, and efficiency savings. Although many organisations already have processes in place to aid collaboration, there is a consensus that more can be achieved. Funders must work to drive this, and seek to facilitate organic collaboration between organisations by building trust and shared goals.
Action 8: The Scottish Government commits to embedding the Funders Framework into its decision-making and to championing it with funding partners.
In 2015, the Scottish Government, the Improvement Service and Scottish Legal Aid Board launched the Funders Framework, which sets out good practice principles for funders entering or reviewing funding arrangements with advice providers.
For advice providers, the Framework should result in projects established with clearer outcomes and more focus on solving specific problems. For funders, it should encourage a more strategic approach to identifying the need for funding, and encourage partnership building with other funders, for example by exploring match funding opportunities or joint commissioning.
Although some or all of the principles are often upheld by funders, the TPDG discussions suggested that the Framework is not always well understood or considered, making it more difficult to realise its full potential. The Scottish Government seeks to have the good practice it promotes more widely adopted, both within and beyond the Scottish Government.
We are already funding the Improvement Service to support ongoing work to implement the Framework. This will include an analysis of its limitations as well as examples of successful implementation. We will use this work as a platform to further develop the effectiveness of the framework.
- We will publish guidance on how the Scottish Government uses the Funders Framework to inform the allocation of the debt levy (from next financial year) to show leadership, increase transparency and inform best practice.
- We will work with the Improvement Service on a communication strategy to raise awareness of the benefits of the Framework amongst funders of debt advice.
- We will develop a strategy to ensure the Framework is more widely adopted across the Scottish Government.
Action 9: The Scottish Government commits to supporting a more integrated landscape for free debt advice provision.
The TPDG highlighted that collaboration faces a number of barriers, most notably a highly competitive funding environment made more so by scarce resources and short term funding cycles. Collaboration therefore requires a substantive change in both funder and provider behaviour. However, the TPDG also stressed that collaboration can take many forms – from submitting joint funding bids to sharing best practice and developing strong referral links – and they are all important.
Some of the actions set out above, in particular moving to multi-year funding cycles and developing a more inclusive process for using levy funding, should assist in overcoming some of the barriers. However, these steps alone will be insufficient.
Levy funding is a small proportion of the funding devoted to free debt advice available and the Scottish Government cannot drive the priorities and methods of other organisations. However, we will use our influence to bring funders and advisers together and encourage strategic decision-making and the sharing of best practice.
- We will develop along with the sector, a transparent process to share priorities and funding decisions.
- We will host a funders forum, including local authorities, to share learning, best practice and common challenges, and identify short, medium and long term opportunities for collaboration.
- We will establish a parallel advice network for debt advice providers to share learning, best practice and expertise.
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