Financial Service Consumer Panel chairman Adam Philips says the Money Advice Service must be more focused in its work to ensure an effective use of its resources.
MAS’s business plan for 2012/13, published in March, says 19 million adults could benefit from a service “such as ours”. It says it aims to reach 1.9 million people this year, rising to 11.3 million by 2016/17.
In April, Labour Shadow Treasury financial secretary Chris Leslie tabled an amendment to the Financial Services Bill calling for MAS to focus on providing “targeted, proactive and easily accessible advice to those encountering economic disadvantage, financial exclusion or financial exploitation”, but the amendment was not debated.
Giving evidence to the Treasury select sub-committee’s inquiry into the MAS last week, Philips said the 19 million figure could be an “underestimate” of the number of people who need advice. He said reaching that many people is something “mass-marketing organisations aspire to” but that MAS should focus its resources.
He said: “It ought to be focusing down within that group. There are a lot of people who need some kind of advice so I think the issue for the panel is about effective use of the resources it has and that requires more focus. It needs to be much clearer about what it is trying to achieve in its limited objectives.”
Advice UK national money advice co-ordinator David Hawkes said MAS’s focus should be on “niche groups” like drug or alcohol addicts or people for whom English is not their first language or the homeless.
He said: “Is it reaching the people it needs to reach? I am not convinced it is. In a perfect world yes, 19 million would be great, but in hard times we need to focus on people who have the most complex problems and the highest support needs.”