5th May 2015
The Government-funded Money Advice Service provided 252,000 free debt advice sessions in the year to the end of March.
Contacts with customers totalled 22.25m for the year, including website visits, web chats, phone and face-to-face services and there was an increase of 35% compared to 2013/14.
Of the 252,000 people helped with free debt advice sessions, just under 220,000 were in England and Wales – 120% more than in 2011/12, the last year before the Service took on co-ordination of the sector. This has been achieved with a funding increase of only 12.5%.
The Service is targeting a further increase of almost 50% in the number of people helped with debt advice sessions in 2015/16.
Nine million actions were taken by people to improve their financial situations as a result of using the Service between April and December 2014. 17% of those surveyed took four or more actions each after receiving support from the Service.
This included over 6,500,000 actions to budget in order to live within means, over 1,200,000 actions to manage debt and over 180,000 actions to plan ahead and prepare for later life and retirement.
The Service encouraged over 800,000 savings actions and 178,000 steps by people taking action to protect against themselves against the unknown during the nine month period.
The biggest peak in use of the Money Advice Service was a week in January 2015 when there were over 600,000 visits by consumers to the website, searching for budget and home content in the New Year.
Retirement also provided a big focus for the year. The Service worked closely with retirement advisers to create a retirement adviser directory which included 4,500 advisers and 1,900 firms at launch. To support the new pension reforms, the Service also created a full suite of retirement content including a retirement income options tool, video content and a printed guide to help people navigate the changes.
The Service worked with Mothercare to provide face-to-face advice in store to support new parents, partnered with UCAS and BBC Radio 1 to reach young people on student finance and the cost of living and launched an NHS Debt and Mental Health tool to help people identify how debt and money problems might also be affecting their mental health.
The Service made significant progress during the year in working with partners to develop a strategy to improve financial capability across the UK. This work was welcomed by Christine Farnish in her review of the Service.
In March, it launched a new evidence hub, designed to help organisations learn from the success or failure of projects in the past. The aim is to help organisations to give more effective support to people. This could be for children learning about money for the first time, working age adults facing financial difficulties or older people seeking to make the most of their retirement.
Caroline Rookes, chief executive of the Money Advice Service, says: “We’ve exceeded targets beyond our expectations and have carried out some great collaborative work with partners across a variety of sectors to raise standards and ensure that impartial information is available when people need it the most.
“This success is no doubt down to the hard work and dedication of our team of talented people. They have gone above and beyond to ensure that consumers remain at the heart of everything we do, making sure they have the impartial help and advice they need.
“I’m pleased that the Independent Review provided confirmation that the work we are doing as an organisation is of great benefit to people across the UK, especially where debt advice and financial capability is concerned. But Christine Farnish also raised some challenges to our business, and I look forward to working with our stakeholders and our staff in the months ahead to explore how we rise to those challenges and continue the vital role of helping people across the UK.”