The Credit Services Association (CSA), the UK trade body for debt collection and debt purchase, has released a new report exploring the provision of debt advice for those facing financial difficulties and in need of support.
The report entitled ‘Wide of the Mark? Assessing the Delivery & Value of Free-To-Client Debt Advice’ argues that consistent and high-quality debt advice serves a very important role in helping people navigate financial challenges, especially when the cost of living is rising, but also believes it is essential that the questions of value for money, efficiency and accountability are addressed.
The report found that although significantly increased funding had resulted in increased advice sessions, that was not reflected in the wider landscape. Free to client debt advice sessions barely increased from 1.4 million sessions in 2011, to 1.6 million sessions in February 2020. On the face of it, and in spite of the Money and Pension Service (MaPS) achievements, tens of millions of pounds in additional funding every year have resulted in virtually no progress in increasing debt advice provision in almost a decade.
Henry Aitchison, CSA Head of Policy and author of the report welcomed the more proactive approach taken recently by MaPS in seeking to reform the commissioning of debt advice provision, however, he raises concerns that time is not on side, “More people will require high quality and consistent debt advice in the coming months, and free provision will require both broader and fairer sources of funding and far greater efficiency than is currently the case”.
The report also highlights a number of concerns, including a significant lack of reliable data; a general lack of transparency and accountability; and the need for greater emphasis on consistent standards and outcomes for customers.