The Money Advice Service wants to develop a minimum benchmark that individuals will have to meet in order to give debt advice.
The MAS has a £34.5m budget for 2012/13 to co-ordinate the delivery of debt advice in the UK. It has published a consultation today on its plans to ensure debt advice is delivered to a consistent high standard.
As part of its proposals, the MAS says it will look to introduce a “consistent and recognised benchmark for individuals giving debt advice at various levels, with a view to this becoming an essential requirement”.
It has not set minimum qualifications but is instead looking to develop a process where the MAS accredits existing debt advice quality standards, membership codes, qualifications and training.
MAS says its aim is for debt advice organisations to demonstrate staff are well trained and competent, that they hold a recognised accredited qualification, or that staff have attended training which reflects “debt advice role profiles” set by MAS based on national occupational standards.
The MAS has set out four debt advice role profiles which individuals should be measured against. These are:
- Debt support worker: should be able to work with clients to identify consumers’ needs and refer on if necessary.
- Debt adviser: should be able to liaise with creditors on a consumer’s behalf and be able to explain solutions.
- Specialist debt adviser: should be an expert in debt advice with in-depth, up to date knowledge of relevant case law.
- Debt advocate: should be able to competently represent a client at court or tribunal relating to debt issues.
The consultation closes on 15 March. Debt advice organisations that receive MAS funding will have to demonstrate they meet the MAS quality framework by April 2014. If they fail to meet the required standards after an audit this will impact on their ability to gain funding.
MAS head of the UK debt advice programme Caroline Siarkiewicz says: “In the current economic climate, it is vital debt advice is always of the highest quality. When people look for advice they need to know they can trust what they are hearing and that the right people, with the right training, are helping them.
“We have seen excellent practice in many parts of the country and today’s consultation is the start of a process to bring the standard across the whole country in line with that best practice.”