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It’s about time we gave the CAB project a break

I am usually calm and collected enough to read criticism, smile and get on with life but when the criticism is unfounded and based on a quarter of a story it pushes me far enough to feel the need to reply – I am referring to Alan Swaysland’s letter in Money Marketing, May 5.

I am surprised at the amount of negativity I have seen from other IFAs in the trade press about the Citizen’s Advice Bureau project. Surely, anything that generates a positive image for IFAs in the mainstream press is to be welcomed. Projects such as this reinforce our professionalism – solicitors have been giving pro bono advice in CABs for years.

The CAB project first flashed across my computer as an email from Sofa (before the merger) asking for volunteers in certain areas of the country. Pearson Jones has an office in one of those areas – Gateshead – and I was eager to get involved. This was my opportunity and Pearson Jones’ chance to give a bit back to society by using my knowledge, experience and time.

No doubt, when the pilot finishes in June, after evaluation, if it is decided to continue to roll it out around the country, all members of the PFS will have the opportunity to take part.

From what I have seen, the CAB staff will welcome support with open arms. I hope it does continue as I can only see that it brings benefits to all. In addition, in many cases, I advise some individuals where they can locate a local IFA when appropriate.

OK, maybe there is a need for a “National Wealth Service” but projects such as this tend to be the forerunner for wider issues and, combined with the other initiatives on financial education gathering momentum, I think we are entering an exciting new era where IFAs will be in demand from both ends of the spectrum. As a result of this, they will get a more positive press and generate more fee-based advice business from those clients that are fortunate enough to afford it.

It never ceases to amaze me that individuals in sometimes wretched circumstances are so grateful for straightforward, sensible advice that makes them feel they can deal with what life has thrown at them.

It is also worrying that there are lots of vultures out there ready to take advantage of disadvantaged people. Let me just put you in the picture about the case that Alan referred to.

The man had been on disability benefits for the last 10 years and was no longer employed. He received a letter out of the blue from the trustees of a company pension scheme that he had long since left. Briefly, it said – here are your options, tell us what you want to do.

The figures were very small – the tax-free cash element was in four figures. He did not know whether which or any of the options would affect his and his wife’s means-tested benefits, He was a month off his 65th birthday and he still had not been informed what his revised state benefits would be.

Being on disability, he did not have any spare funds with which to pay a fee.

I hope this puts matters in perspective. In no way was he taking advantage – he had a genuine need for advice and did not know who to turn to – the CAB staff are great, but are not qualified to give pension advice.

Yvonne Goodwin

Associate director,

Pearson Jones

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