Debts: Advisory Services – written question Asked by The Lord Bishop of St Albans. Answer received 20th May 2021.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the findings in the Christian’s Against Poverty’s Our Story, Client Report 2021, published in April, that 45 per cent of clients did not initially know where to access help to manage their debts, what plans they have to better (1) signpost, and (2) raise awareness of, debt advice services as part of the recovery from COVID-19. [HL93]
Lord Agnew of Oulton: The Government recognises that some people are struggling with their personal finances as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold. The Government is committed to helping people access the support they need to get their finances back on track. This is why it has agreed to maintain record levels of debt advice funding for the Money and Pension Service (MaPS) in 2021/22, bringing the budget for free debt advice in England to £94.6 million, an increase of over 70% compared to 2019/20 levels.
Support from MaPS is available to all online, and the website includes a debt advice locator tool to help people find local free advice services. MaPS also launched a Money Navigator Tool last year, promoted via various channels, which helps people navigate their finances during the pandemic and avoid financial issues worsening in future. To ensure that people are signposted to the help they need, MaPS services are referenced in the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) guidance, which is issued to all financial services lenders regulated by the FCA.
Further, MaPS-funded free-to-client debt advice service providers have been pro-actively reaching out to customers during the pandemic, including by using video calls and webchat to offer broader ways for clients to engage. In addition, the MaPS-led Pilot of Adviser Capacity and Efficiency (PACE) was launched in March 2019, offering a new route into debt advice. This pro-actively engages people by working closely with creditors, who introduce those who are missing payments to the service and promote the benefits of seeking help. In addition to creditor referrals, MaPS launched a self-referral route into PACE in November 2019 to engage with customers directly. The pilot’s evaluation is ongoing, and MaPS will move successful elements of the work to full-scale from this Autumn.