‘The immediate and longer-term issues facing the advice sector in terms of delivery are exacerbated by growing levels of demand at a time when the supply of good quality services is fragmented,’ the authors of a new report, Addressing the skills gap within advice services
(Dr Anne Rathbone, Mark Foster and Patrick Nyikavaranda, 12 May 2022), have concluded.
The research, commissioned by Trust for London, Paul Hamlyn and the London Legal Support Trust, builds on previous work that has identified a systemic advice skills gap in the advice sector and some of the key challenges that are contributing to this problem. The authors found a strong consensus that the skills needed for giving advice require knowledge-based training and delivery skills training. Addressing the skills gap, however, requires a focus that is wider than just training provision, with a need to meet challenges in recruitment and retention. Key recommendations include:
•funders and advice membership bodies should work together to develop skills development pathways in housing, welfare rights and employment advice;
•funders and providers should collaborate on the development of a pooled system of supervision;
•longer-term funding should be prioritised to ensure providers have the best opportunities to give longer-term contracts that qualify for better employment conditions and benefits; and
•meaningful opportunities for cross-sector learning should be maximised and proactively seek the views of smaller organisations and front-line staff.
In conclusion, the authors highlight the importance of community-based organisations being naturally placed to provide holistic advice and act as community anchors, with a need to develop a more systematic approach to developing a training pathway in all areas of social welfare law. They acknowledge that this solution-focused research is just the start of investigating and addressing the skills gap.