Record number of people benefit from money and debt advice

Tuesday 5 May

Year-end figures for the Money Advice Service published today, show that the Service has helped more people than ever to gain control of their finances. It funded over a quarter of a million free debt advice sessions to people across the UK during the year and achieved over 22 million customer contacts via the website, web chat, phone and face-to-face service, an increase of 35% compared to 2013/14.

Helping more people access high quality debt advice
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.

The Service continued to work collaboratively with the debt industry throughout 2014/15 to increase the availability, standards and quality of debt advice. Highlights during the year included:

  • New three year funding agreements for England and Wales commenced with partners. The Service is implementing similar arrangements in Scotland and will do so in Northern Ireland as soon as possible.
  • The development of a new Peer Review scheme to assess the quality of advice given to clients by advisers and to share best practice.
  • Progressing with development of a Standard Financial Statement, which will enable debt advisers to record clients’ income and expenditure in a consistent way.
  • A Common Initial Assessment process enabling advice providers to assess client need and guide them to the appropriate channel of advice. This is currently operational in more than 200 of our English and Welsh-funded debt advice providers.

The work of the Service and its partners on debt advice was given positive recognition by Christine Farnish in her recent review.

Helping people take action

9 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. Importantly, 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 most popular website content during 2014/15 included ‘Living on a low income tips’ which achieved around 778,000 page views, ‘Estimate your overall buying and moving costs’ (over 490,000 views) and ‘Car tax bands explained’ (400,000 views).

87% of those who used the Service said that it provided them with the help they required, 90% would revisit it and 87% would recommend it to others.

Planning ahead for life events

The Service continued to help consumers to plan ahead for key life events to avoid experiencing financial shocks in the future. A range of new interactive tools were produced throughout the year to help with this, including the car costs calculator which was used more than 260,000 times, the mortgage affordability calculator (used more than 490,000 times) and payday loan advice tool (used more than 100,000 times).

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. Further peaks were seen in August/September 2014 when the Service launched a campaign to raise awareness of the costs of buying a second hand car, and in March 2015 in the run up to the pension reforms.

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 the Your Pension: It’s time to choose printed guide to help people navigate the changes.

Collaboration and partnerships

Working in partnership remains at the heart of the Service’s strategy. Over the year, 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
  • Launched an NHS Debt and Mental Health tool to help people identify how debt and money problems might also be affecting their mental health.
  • Built relationships with Rightmove and On The Market to help consumers understand the full cost of buying a home.

3 million of the contacts to the Service during the year were from people accessing its advice on or via partners’ sites.

Enhancing financial capability

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.

Commenting on the results Caroline Rookes, CEO of the Money Advice Service said:

“We’ve had a fantastic year here at the Money Advice Service, helping more people than ever to become money smart, manage their finances more effectively and get out of debt. 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.”

RESULTS

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS Q4 (Jan - Mar 2015) Full year (Apr 2014 - Mar 2015)
Volume of customer contacts (a visit to the website, web chat, phone or face-to-face session) 7,403,000 22,250,000
Online contacts (excluding Web Chats) 7,332,000 22,018,000
Face-to-face contacts 24,000 95,000
Telephone contacts 30,000 92,000
Web chats 16,000 45,000
Number of times we have given customers the help they required 5,079,000 12,485,000

All figures rounded to the nearest 1,000. Figures may not sum due to rounding

Annual target 2014/15 for customer contacts: 16m
Annual target 2014/15 for number of times we have given customers the help they required: 6m

SATISFACTION CRITERIA Q4 (Jan - Mar 2015) Full year (Apr 2014 - Mar 2015) Annual target 2014/15
% of people stating Service helped them decide on a course of action 63% 63% 70%
% of people stating Service provided them with help required 87% 87% 82%
% of people stating they will revisit the Service 89% 90% 88%
% of people who would recommend the Service 87% 87% 85%
Number of actions taken as a result of the service Q3 (Oct - Dec 2014) YTD (Apr - Dec 2014)
Total actions taken 4,314,000 9,254,000
Budgeting to live within means 3,043,000 6,545,000
Managing Debt well 648,000 888,000
Being prepared for later life and retirement 181,000 402,000
Protected against the unknown 89,000 178,000

All figures rounded to the nearest 1,000. Figures may not sum due to rounding.
Annual target 2014/15 for number of actions taken as a result of the service: 4.5m

DEBT ADVICE Q4 (Jan – Mar 2015) Full year (Apr 2014-Mar 2015)
Debt sessions funded through partners 84,800 251,700
England & Wales 79,100 219,700
Northern Ireland 1,000 3,700
Scotland (Scottish figures for Q4 cover December 14 – February 15) 4,800 28,200

Annual target 2014/15 for debt sessions funded through partners: 237,500

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

1) Customer stories (Names have been changed to preserve anonymity)

Kevin, 21 from Yorkshire had just proposed to his girlfriend. He wanted advice about how to save for his wedding.

Kevin’s main concern was saving up for a wedding but he did not know where to start. Our Money Adviser approached this in stages. First they discussed how to work a wedding budget out, starting with the wedding that they wanted and then identifying how to find out the costs of each of the individual things that they wanted as part of the day. The adviser also worked through a personal budget for Kevin and his partner and discovered that they could save £400 per month between them. This enabled them to calculate how long it would take them to save so they could set a date. Our Money Adviser also gave them advice about how to cut costs using reward schemes, cashback promotions and discount websites.

Rebecca, 43 from the East Midlands – Having worked as a teacher for most of her career, Rebecca found herself in a difficult financial situation following a number of ailments which meant she was dependent on benefits. She wanted help to become financially independent again

Rebecca had a hobby which involved making and selling soft furnishings and she wanted some advice about how this would affect her benefits. Our Money Adviser suggested that she looked into working under Permitted Work Rules while on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Rebecca was surprised that this option existed and felt that if she was able to take this route she may be able to build a successful business to the point that she could become self-sufficient and no longer require benefits.

2) The methodology for the number of actions taken as a result of the Service is as follows: between December 2014 and February 2015 the Service surveyed 1,846 customers – a mix of web, phone and face-to-face customers who had had interactions with the Service between October 2014 and December 2014. Customers were asked about their propensity to take positive actions following interaction with the Money Advice Service, and to understand the barriers and enablers they had faced, in doing this. They were given a list of 20 different actions, and asked which ones they had taken. These actions could be either something the respondent had started to do, such as taking out new insurance or taking steps to reduce their debt, or things that they had started to more or less of, such as going into arrears less on bills or sticking to a budget more often.

3) Customer satisfaction scores are measured through monthly exit polls - surveys are conducted by telephone and online by independent market research agencies and measure customer satisfaction across all three Service delivery channels - online, phone, face-to-face. During the three months of quarter four, we interviewed 60,440 customers across all channels. Since April 2014 we have extended our exit poll questions to incorporate ‘was your visit helpful?’ The result of this question is then used to calculate the KPI ‘Number of times we have provided customers with the help they required’.

4) Data about usage of articles and calculators has been taken from internal analytics and site data.

About the Money Advice Service

The Money Advice Service is an independent organisation. Set up by government to help people make the most of their money, it gives free, unbiased money advice across the UK – online, over the phone and face to face. Paid for by a statutory levy on the financial services industry, raised through the Financial Conduct Authority, its statutory objectives are to enhance the understanding & knowledge of members of the public about financial matters (including the UK financial system), and to enhance the ability of the public to manage their own financial affairs.

For more information please contact the Money Advice Service Press Office on 020 7943 0593 pressoffice@moneyadviceservice.org.uk