The Money Advice Service has come under further fire today with the National Audit Office stating the service is not delivering value for money and calling for it to work more closely with IFAs.
The NAO report, Helping consumers to manage their money, published today, says that while the debt advice part of the service is delivering value for money, the money advice service part is not.
The NAO acknowledges the MAS has been moving in the right direction on money advice since new chief executive Caroline Rookes took over in February, but that it must become more of an “influencer” in the sector.
The paper comes in the same week as a scathing Treasury select cub-committee report into the service which branded it “not fit for purpose”.
MPs lashed out at MAS’ marketing spend, high executive pay and business strategy, granting it a “stay of execution” while an independent report reviews its effectiveness.
The NAO examined whether MAS has assessed consumers’ need for advice and whether it has targeted it properly, overlaps with other bodies and if it is cost effective.
It says the money advice arm launched in April 2011 before analysing the need or availability for it.
The NAO says 97 per cent of MAS consumer contact comes through the website but its effectiveness is “mixed”.
Visits to the website increased by 400 per cent following an £18m marketing campaign. But the NAO says it is not clear the website is directing those who need more assistance towards phone or face-to-face channels.
The report makes a series of recommendations for the MAS to improve including the need to build relationships and links with regulated advisers to signpost users who want regulated products.
It also calls for MAS to become more of an “influencer” of other organisations, create a more coherent strategy and to better understand the risks of not providing its services.
Rookes says: “The NAO has recognised we are collaborating more and more with partners and stakeholders, and developing more of a positive role in influencing the wider sector, and we welcome this.
“But we are not complacent. We are working hard to develop meaningful relationships with the advice community and to enhance the way we evaluate our progress, but there is more we can do.”