A NEW financial guidance body enabling people to get better help with money matters ranging from budgeting to pension questions will be created by the Government.
The body will be a first point of contact for people looking for debt advice as well as general money and pensions guidance. It will point people in the direction of other organisations such as charities so they can get further help if needed.
The Government unveiled plans for a shake-up of bodies which offer free pensions guidance and money management tips in the Budget earlier this year.
It consulted on the possibility of setting up two bodies for government-sponsored guidance - one covering general money help and one covering pensions.
This would have involved replacing the Money Advice Service (MAS) with a new, streamlined, money guidance body, and bringing together the Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) and Pension Wise into a new, pension guidance body.
But industry and consumer finance groups raised concerns over how two organisations might work together effectively.
The Government said ministers have listened and decided a single body would make it easier for people to get help. The new body, which has not yet been named, will replace all three organisations.
Pensions Minister Richard Harrington said: “A single guidance body will be more efficient and will help consumers make the right financial decisions, and we are committed to ensuring people can access the best free and impartial financial guidance possible.”
A timetable has not yet been set for the new body coming into being as a consultation will now take place looking into the best way to design it.
Economic Secretary to the Treasury Simon Kirby said: “We strongly believe that creating one public guidance body is the best way of making it as easy as possible for people to access the help they need to get their financial questions answered.”
Pension Wise was set up alongside the retirement freedoms introduced in 2015, to help people approaching retirement decide what to do with their cash.
The Pensions Advisory Service also offers free and impartial pensions guidance, while the MAS, which offers free, impartial money tips, was set up by government in 2010 in response to a review which estimated that 19 million people in the UK would benefit from generic financial help.
The MAS, which is funded by a levy on the financial services industry, has played a role in helping people who face problem debt get the help they need, and helping consumers understand financial services and make better decisions, with various money management tools also available on its website.
But it has come under fire for duplicating work already being provided in the private and charitable sectors and not sufficiently getting to those who need its help the most.
Inquiries by the Treasury Select Committee and the National Audit Office have raised questions about the value for money and effectiveness of the Service’s consumer finance education role.