The author of an independent review into the Money Advice Service has slammed the organisation for “wasting time and money” by carrying out a review into whether it replicates the work of other bodies.
In March, former Consumer Focus chair Christine Farnish published a Treasury-commissioned report calling for the MAS to be overhauled and to slash its money advice budget.
The report also warned the MAS was not delivering good value as it was duplicating services offered by other organisations.
Earlier today, Money Marketing reported that MAS was continuing to investigate Farnish’s conclusions, and was carrying out its own work into whether it was replicating other bodies’ work.The MAS plans to publish its findings in a report in November.
MAS chief executive Caroline Rookes described Farnish’s work as “light touch”.
She said: “It was a short study with a very small team and in the time available and with the resource available it just wasn’t possible other than to do a fairly light-touch look at what appeared to be out there.
“Those services may be very good, but we don’t know if they’re only reaching the customers of one organisation or people only living in one area, and there’s also the quality of the product they provide and the key question of how impartial they are.”
But Farnish says: “This strikes me as a complete waste of time and money.
“Anyone who has got a laptop or a mobile phone can search for advice and find a whole range of different providers coming up, many of whom are excellent.
“Caroline would say they are the only one set up by government to be impartial, but there are plenty of other providers out there who give good, honest advice.”
Farnish also points to the findings of the Treasury select committee, which said in 2013 that the MAS was replicating work already being done in the private and charitable sectors.
She adds: “But the MAS seem to be ploughing the same old field again.”
Rookes says: “The Farnish review provided a number of recommendations to streamline and improve the work of the MAS and we are actively working to implement these. The changes we have already undoubtedly contributed to the excellent set of results we issued this week: we continue to expanded our list of partners, we have reduced our marketing spend by a third, and our debt advice projects helped more than 91,300 people in the quarter, more than ever before.
“Our focus remains on continuing to support the 5.5 million people that come to us for support each quarter, continuing to implement the changes the Farnish review recommended, and launching a financial capability strategy for the UK later this year.”