The Improvement Service welcomed the opportunity to provide evidence for the ‘Independent Review of the Funding of Debt Advice in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland’.
Our response draws primarily from the findings from the Money Advice Performance Management Framework (MAPMF), for which the Improvement Service collates and analyses data provided by the 32 Scottish local authorities. Additional research carried out by the Improvement Service - on areas such as alternative service delivery models, referral pathways, and customer journey mapping - is also relevant to this response, and is outlined where appropriate.
The Improvement Service welcomed the opportunity to respond to the Money Advice Service’s consultation on the future approach to debt advice commissioning.
Along with other organisations, the Improvement Service has produced compelling evidence that improving financial capability and increasing levels of resilience, and the provision of debt advice are inextricably linked. As a result, most advice providers adopt a person-centred approach and seek to offer a holistic service to individuals at a time of need- which often occurs when people experience life changes either as a result of personal circumstances (e.g. unemployment) or alterations in state policies (e.g. welfare reform). From 2018, the responsibility for commissioning services that deliver advice relating to financial capability and debt will rest with different bodies, a new financial guidance body and the Scottish Government respectively. In these circumstances, it is critical that a collaborative approach is taken by public service providers which is in line with the Christie Commission’s recommendations to provide effective and efficient services.
This short briefing paper sets out the need for continued public funding to support the provision of money advice services and outlines the multiple positive outcomes they provide. It follows on from the findings reported in 'A Summary of the Impact of 2016-17 Local Authority Budget Cuts on Money Advice Services'.
Despite substantial evidence of their effective targeting, impact and value for money, money advice services have experienced significant reductions in funding in recent years, and their future viability is uncertain. Money advice services support core priorities, deliver excellent value for money, secure revenue streams and, through early intervention and reducing inequality, decrease long-term costs to the public sector.
There is evidence that, at a time of increased demand for services, a flexible approach to service delivery is being adopted by many service providers, which is based on improving outcomes for people and communities and reducing inequality.
The IS Money Advice Outcomes team carried out a review of the impact of 2016-17 local authority budget cuts on the provision of money advice services which are funded and/or delivered by local authorities. The report provides a snapshot of the position in 2016, and identifies very clearly that the position in 2017-18 is likely to be one of continued reductions in budgetary provision and that the only way to maintain services is likely to be through wide-ranging transformational changes.
The analysis found that many local authorities have adopted, or are actively considering, a more strategic approach to the delivery of advice services. This is likely to include integration of services, strengthened resource planning, increased generic working, extended partnership working and a review of the channels customers use to access services. Accepting and participating in the transformation agenda will be an integral part of the process of sustaining money advice services.
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The Improvement Service (IS) is the national improvement organisation for local government in Scotland.
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