Raising standards

We believe that it is important for people who seek debt advice to have the assurance that both the organisation they access, and the adviser that they engage with, are operating to the highest standards.

Our current focus is to work with partners to make debt advice easier and quicker to access, and to improve standards and quality across the sector. Key areas of our work are detailed below.

Debt Advice Peer Assessment

The Debt Advice Peer Assessment (DAPA) process, builds on the experience and learning of the previous Peer Review Scheme and has been completely redesigned to ensure it can effectively support our commissioning approach going forward. The fresh approach of DAPA continues to consider a sample of closed client case files that are each benchmarked against the process’ criteria and utilises the skill set and expertise of current, active specialist debt advisers each of whom act as an Assessor. The process is managed independently of MAS by Recognising Excellence.

Participation with the DAPA process is a mandatory element of the grant funding arrangements and assessment performance now forms one part of a series of metrics that inform the MAS Performance Management Framework. This now means that we have full insight into the assessment findings and how each organisation assessed has performed.

Read our Debt Advice Peer Review Scheme Pre Assessment Questionnaire and Guidance in full

Debt Advice Quality Framework

Our quality framework comprises of two interlinked and essential parts – the ‘organisational’ quality framework and the ‘individual’ quality framework, which together, form our approach to ensuring the high quality of debt advice services in both the free-to-client and fee-charging sectors.

The framework provides a single, transparent and consistent mechanism which enables quality standards, membership codes, training and qualifications currently used in the debt advice sector to be assessed against the requirements of the framework and achieve accreditation from the Money Advice Service. This will ensure that both an organisation and its individual advisers are delivering consistent and high quality debt advice.

Read our Debt Advice Quality Framework in full (PDF 394 KB)

Accreditation of Standards and Membership Codes

Quality standards and membership codes used in the debt advice sector can be submitted for accreditation to an independent external organisation who will undertake an assessment against our quality framework. Those that evidence successfully that they fully meet all of the criteria will achieve accreditation. The main quality areas that standards and membership codes are required to evidence are:

  • Ensuring client needs are understood and met
  • Having strong governance arrangements in place
  • Reviewing, learning and adapting where required, the services that they provide to clients

We began to accredit standards and membership codes in January 2014. To date, the following quality standards and membership codes were awarded full three year accreditation:

  • Advice NI Money and Debt Advice Quality Assurance Standards
  • Advice Quality Standard (Advice Services Alliance)
  • National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux Membership Scheme
  • Northern Ireland Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux Membership Scheme
  • Scottish Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux Membership Scheme
  • The matrix Standard (incorporating the Money Advice Service Organisation Framework)
  • Lexcel England and Wales v6.1 incorporating the Money Advice Service Quality Framework (MAS QF)

A list of free-to-client and fee-charging debt advice organisations holding a Money Advice Service accredited standard or membership code can be found here.

Connecting people with high-quality debt advice

In June 2014, we launched a ‘ Debt advice locator tool’. This tool helps people seek free debt advice by enabling them to search for local or national services. This unique tool only features free debt advice organisations holding a Money Advice Service accredited quality standard or membership code, so people can be reassured the advice they are receiving is of a high and consistent standard.

Accreditation of Training and Qualification

Training and qualifications used in the debt advice sector can be submitted for accreditation to an independent external organisation for assessment against our quality framework. Those that successfully evidence that they fully meet the criteria set out in the framework, will achieve accreditation.

The quality framework was developed in collaboration with a Working Group of debt advice stakeholders from across the UK. The framework sets out the knowledge and skills that debt advisers are required to have obtained and evidenced through their learning, across the spectrum of debt advice activities that they undertake in their work.

The framework provides debt advisers with Money Advice Service accredited pathways through which they can identify how to acquire the agreed core learning for the types of debt related activity they do through training, qualifications, or both. Aside from these accredited learning pathways, advisers can continue to access the wide range of technical quality training available to further build on their expertise as part of their continuous professional development.

To date, the following courses and qualifications have been accredited and details of those learning pathways are detailed here.

For additional information read the accompanying documents to the individual quality framework (PDF 185 KB)

Debt Quality Site

In 2015 we launched a dedicated Debt Quality website called ‘Raising Standards’. The site provides details on the following areas:

  • Quality Work Themes – Provides details on the accreditation of Standards and Membership Codes and the accreditation of training and qualifications.
  • Good Practice Toolkit – Provides resources for debt advisers to use when advising clients. The resources include a range of templates, letters, prompt lists, checklists that can support new and experienced advisers with the frontline delivery of debt advice. These have been designed and developed in collaboration with the Money Advice Service (MAS) and the wider sector including Good Practice that has been identified during the MAS Debt Advice Peer Assessment process. In addition, guidance for debt advisers advising on ‘Maximising Income’ is also available. This guidance will assist managers and advisers on what level of advice should be given for ‘maximising income’ as part of the debt advice process, this has also been developed and designed by members of the advice sector.
  • Learning Pathway Hub - Contains up-to-date information on training courses and qualifications that have been accredited against the Money Advice Service Individual Quality Framework. It is designed for users from across the debt sector including advisers, quality assessors, learning and development professionals and others with a need to understand the current learning landscape

In addition to the above areas, the website is also used to host updated information and guidance on quality initiatives, such as the Continuous Professional Development Scheme implemented last year and the Debt Advice Peer Assessment. The website can be accessed here.