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Balls: Financial exclusion fight will continue

The government has reaffirmed its commitment to fighting financial exclusion.Treasury minister Ed Balls is set to tell the Resolution Foundation conference later today that the forthcoming comprehensive spending review will maintain the £120 million funding level earmarked for financial inclusion initiatives.He will explain that although it has not yet been possible for current initiatives to be mainstreamed into "core departmental activities" this remains the government's long-term goal."We have a big challenge ahead of us… it is an issue not only of economic prosperity but of social justice," Mr Balls will say."The government wants to see everyone have access to appropriate financial products, and the confidence and capability to use them to make a positive difference to their lives."The Treasury is leading a drive to recruit money advisers, tackle loan sharks and work with credit unions to reduce the numbers of those remaining outside the financial norm.With nearly one in ten households not having access to a bank account the problem, according to Mr Balls, is a pressing one."Tackling financial exclusion and spreading financial capability is essential for both our economic prosperity and for social justice," he will say."It is good both for individuals and for society and the economy as a whole."The government was today criticised over a key pillar of its anti-social exclusion strategy, however.Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesperson David Laws attacked the tax credits system, saying it was causing financial hardship rather than mitigating it."Rather than taking the necessary steps to reform the tax credit system, the government is pushing ever more families into poverty by demanding back tax credit overpayments even when these were caused by Inland Revenue mistakes," he said."30,000 letters were sent out in January demanding repayment of tax credits in as little as three days, but people could not appeal because the phone lines were constantly engaged."

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