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Government launches independent review of MAS

by: Carmen Reichman
  • 02/06/2014
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Government launches independent review of MAS
The government has today launched an independent review of the Money Advice Service (MAS), responding to calls from the Treasury select committee (TSC) last December.

The probe will look at the effectiveness of the independent service, which was set up by the government in 2010 and which had a budget for this year of £77.5m, paid for by the financial industry.

On its website, MAS states that it “helps people manage their money”.

“We do this directly through our own free and impartial advice service. We also work in partnership with other organisations to help people make the most of their money.”

The probe follows calls from the TSC last December, which found the MAS was not fit for purpose in its review of the service.

The government commissioned the review in March.

Economic Secretary to the Treasury Andrea Leadsom said on Friday that the review will be led by Christine Farnish, former chief executive of the National Association of Pension Funds, who will report back before the end of the year.

Farnish said: “An independent review of the Money Advice Service is timely in view of the considerable public interest and debate around the service, the new regulatory framework and the government’s recent announcement on pensions.

“I will be taking a thorough look at MAS, including what it does and how effective it has been in meeting consumer need to date, and I will recommend any changes that would better enable it to meet this need.”

MAS chief executive Caroline Rookes said she was pleased the starting point for the review is that “the Money Advice Service has a very important job to do”.

“We’re confident that it will highlight what the service does every week to help hundreds of thousands of customers through high-quality, free and impartial money advice and the debt advice projects we fund.

“The review provides a great opportunity to […] further improve what we do, and help more people manage their money better,” she said.

The Treasury said its review will assess the need for consumer education and advice and the role that MAS should play in delivering it.

It will look at MAS’ use of various delivery channels and the work with its partners, as well as its long-term strategy for debt advice delivery.

It will also consider how the MAS should measure its success, in particular in striking the right balance between impact and reach.

However, the government said it will also consider last year’s National Audit Office report, which found MAS is “moving in the right direction”, particularly with its debt advice.

MAS’ efforts in measuring success came under fire from the Association of Professional Financial Advisers (APFA) in February, which was concerned the service did not measure how many people it actually helped.

Earlier this month the service reported it had served more online customers in the last year than “ever before” and surpassed satisfaction levels.

A call for evidence will be issued shortly, the government said.

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