Consultation response: Public Financial Guidance and the Financial Advice Market Review

By: Vicky Pearlman  Published: January 2016


Shelter works to empower people with housing problems to keep, access and improve a home. Housing and financial advice are often linked. The provision of free-to-client, impartial financial guidance to give clients the information they need, to make financial decisions directly or to seek the right advice to help them to do so, is an important part of our advice services.


Summary

Shelter works to empower people with housing problems to keep, access and improve a home.  We provide free, expert housing advice to anyone, no matter what their situation, through face to face, telephone and digital advice, as well as second tier advice services. Housing and financial advice is often linked and the provision of free-to-client, impartial financial guidance to give clients the information they need, to make financial decisions directly or to seek the right additional advice to help them to do so, is often an important component of our advice services.

We welcome this opportunity to respond to the Treasury consultation on Public Financial Guidance, and the wider Financial Advice Market Review, co-ordinated by the FCA.  Last year (2014/15), 4.5million people came to us for help - online, in person and over the phone. 116,000 calls for support were answered by our helpline, which is open every single day of the year, 4.4m people use the advice pages of our website and 69,000 people received help through our face-to-face advice and support services.  

Summary

  • There is growing and urgent need for financial guidance and advice 
  • At the same time, there is evidence of advice deserts in some localities where private and voluntary advice providers have closed down. This has been exacerbated by changes to Legal Aid funding and scope, further restricting access to specialist advice.  
  • Timely and appropriate financial guidance can prevent longer term vulnerability or negative financial behaviours being established. This is more costly and time consuming to address when a person reaches financial crisis point.
  • Recent changes to Government housing policy, such as the introduction of new homeownership products, such as Help to Buy, extended Right to Buy, Shared Ownership and Rent to Mortgage schemes, will create further need for financial education, guidance and advice to ensure people choose an appropriate housing option.

Shelter is calling for:

  • Shelter recommends the creation of a Government-backed, comprehensive package of independent financial housing advice which is available free-to-client and guides them through key financial considerations.  
  • Shelter recommends that financial advice should be client-centred, aimed at meeting the needs of people at different life stages, such as starting work, starting a family, ill-health, retirement and bereavement.
  • We recommend that a statutory body should co-ordinate debt advice by putting in place a single gateway for all relevant funding, with clear criteria, aimed at developing a diverse sector to meet the needs of local areas and clients. 
  • We would like to see increased client choice in where and how they access services, e.g. telephone, online, self-help, advocacy and practical interventions.  This should ensure accessibility to clients covered by the Equality Act categories.
  • Rather than reinventing a quality standard for financial guidance and advice, quality assurance should be based on the standards that already exist to ensure it is compatible with existing service delivery methods.  
  • Shelter is keen to work with the Government to advise in more detail what form financial guidance might take and how best to utilise the specialist housing debt advice and financial guidance that we provide.