Government information harms equity release advice

Nine out of 10 of advisers believe that a lack of clear and consistent government information is one of the main obstacles to providing advice about the impact of equity release upon state benefits, research by Safe Home Income Plans shows.

A total of 23% of advisers refer their clients on to another source for advice and answers.

But while the government might seem the most logical source of information, only 15% would refer them to the Department of Work and Pensions for help.

In addition, 37% of advisers felt that had no clear way of keeping up to date with changes in benefits rules.

Those who did look to keep up with developments turned to sources such as the DWP, HMRC and Direct.gov, 30%, trade press, 11%, and computer programs and software, 11%, for the latest information.  

A worrying 88% of equity release clients do not fully understand how state benefits and equity release interact, with over half completely dependent upon financial advisers to explain the relationship.  

Indeed, over 50% of equity release customers are missing out on state benefits that they are entitled to, according to advisers.

Potentially even more worryingly, 42% did not realise that their benefits might be affected by the decision to withdraw the equity in their homes, whilst at 12% thought that they might lose them completely.

Andrea Rosario, director-general of SHIP, says these findings highlight how important it is that advisers have access to clear and consistent information.

She says: “At this time of review I would urge the government to take stock and listen to advisers, simplify the current system through the introduction of clear guidelines, and look for better ways of communicating the information they do provide.

“Financial advisers can help to ease the process of planning for retirement, but in order to do so they must feel as though they have the support of the Government and their needs are being recognised.”