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Money Advice Service axed: where can you go for help?

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Written by: Paloma Kubiak
16/03/2016
The heavily-criticised Money Advice Service (MAS) is set to be scrapped, Budget 2016 documents have confirmed.

MAS was set up by the government in 2010 to give free and impartial information on debt, borrowing, pensions and retirement, budgeting, savings and benefits.

According to MAS, in 2014/15, it was contacted 21 million times by customers, an increase of 20% from 2013/14, and it helped customers “take action” on their issues 9.2 million times.

But while the chancellor didn’t directly announce MAS would be scrapped, Budget documents reveal “the government will restructure the statutory financial guidance providers – the Money Advice Service, the Pensions Advisory Service and Pensions Wise – to ensure that consumers can access the help they need to make effective financial decisions”.

A new pensions guidance body and a new “slimmed down” money guidance body will be set up so consumers can access the debt and money advice they need, following the merger of the Pensions Advisory Service and Pensions Wise.

The government said it would like to “allow a reasonable transition period so the earliest date that the new model will take effect is April 2018”.

It will also consult on introducing a Pensions Advice Allowance, which will allow people under the age of 55 to withdraw up to £500 tax free from their defined contribution pension to redeem against the cost of financial advice.

Until the changes come into effect, we have put together a list of organisations and charities that can help you.

Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice’s money arm helps millions of people every year with debt, housing, welfare and employment issues.

Its advice is free and impartial and delivered face-to-face at one of its 3,500 bureaux, over the phone or via email.

CAB says over the last few years there has been a significant rise in the number of people looking for debt advice.

Visit the Citizens Advice website for more information or call 03444 111 444 (for England) and 03444 77 20 20 (for Wales).

Money Advice Trust

The Money Advice Trust is a charity set up in 1991 to help people with debt problems.  It offers free, independent debt advice through National Debtline, which can be accessed over the phone, through the website or via webchat.

The charity also offers training to businesses which regularly come into contact with people in financial difficulty, such as banks and utility companies.

Last year, it supported 1.2 million people, either directly through its services or indirectly through its adviser training.

Call National Debtline free on 0808 808 4000 or visit the National Debtline site for more information.

Pension Wise

Pension Wise is the free, government-backed service set up to help people understand and navigate the pension freedom rules, which were introduced in April 2015 and gave people unlimited access to their pension pots.

The service is available over the phone or face-to-face and offers impartial guidance – it won’t recommend any products or tell you what to do with your money.

Around 28,300 had a Pension Wise appointment during the first six months of the pension freedoms.

You can book a free appointment at Pension Wise here.

StepChange

This is the UK’s leading debt charity which was first created in 1992. As it’s a charity, it’s not driven by profits or shareholders.

It offers fee-free debt advice on bankruptcy, equity release and mortgages and on Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVA) by working with 100s of organisations such as banks, lenders, retailers, charities and utility companies to help those in need.

It helps people manage and repay their debt through tailored advice and offers practical solutions to help you overcome your debt problems such as through its completely anonymous Debt Remedy tool. Visit the StepChange site or call 0800 138 1111.

Pensions Advisory Service

This is a voluntary organisation that provides information about pensions, including how to save into a scheme, what to do when things change and what your retirement choices are. It also helps you make a complaint about your pension and lists common concerns from other savers.

There are also videos you can view for help. Visit the Pensions Advisory Service site for more information or call 0300 123 1047.

Independent Financial Advice

You can get advice from an Independent Financial Adviser for a fee. Websites such as Unbiased and VouchedFor are search engines allowing people to find whole-of-market financial advisers as well as independent mortgage brokers, solicitors or accountants.

See YourMoney.com’s guide on key points to consider when looking for financial advice.

 

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