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Proposals by MaPS threaten the future of debt advice

Proposals to slash key debt advice funding will add to what is already a ‘perfect storm’ for the most vulnerable people in society with Unite warning that advice deserts will open up across England if the moves to halve the funding for face-to-face debt advice go ahead.


The warning from Unite coincides with the start of this year’s Talk Money Week, an annual campaign to get the nation talking about money organised by the Money and Pension Advice Service (MaPS).

MaPS is the biggest funder of free debt advice in England and is directly funded by the government via the Department for Work and Pensions and has significant input from the Treasury. MaPS have put all the contracts they have in place with advice providers out for tender and Unite is really worried about the lack of public detail about what requirements MaPS set out in its tender document.


What they are hearing so far is alarming:

  • A reduction of face-to-face advice in favour of telephone and online delivery creating a postcode lottery of support.
  • An increase in ‘targets’ of the number of clients who get advice and penalties for those organisations who don’t meet them.

Crucially there has been no meaningful engagement with frontline advisers and if the proposed 50% reductions in funding face-to-face debt advice delivery goes ahead this will mean redundancies for debt advice specialists and a much-reduced service for people in need of help.

The union is calling on MaPs to halt the process while it commissions independent evidence and engages with the frontline staff to find a way forward. 


Unite Lead Officer for debt advice workers, Andy Murray said “Unite is extremely concerned in relation to the amount  of face to face advice which will be provided under the proposed new contracts and the potential loss of Debt Advice posts which we believe would not only directly impact on our members in the sector who carry out this work but also on Unite members and their families who are seeking to access advice on this important issue. We aim to protect the jobs of our members who have worked extremely hard during the coronavirus pandemic to support vulnerable members of the public and wish to continue doing so.”


There is also support from Ruth Hayes, National Executive Member for the Not for Profit Sector said “Our members in the advice sector provide essential support to people in a wide variety of ways.  At the moment, more and more people are finding it harder to make ends meet, and debts that built up during the pandemic are now being pursued by creditors at the same time that prices are rising.  3.8 million households are in debt, with nearly 1 million in rent arrears,  1.4 million behind on Council Tax and the same number behind on gas and electricity bills.  Whilst there is a role for telephone and online help, in lots of situations only face to face advice can help people get real and long term solutions.  It is extremely concerning that funding for face to face debt advice is being cut by the Money and Pensions Service, just at this point when protection against action is ending, Universal Credit has been cut and the furlough scheme has ended.  Unite members are fighting not only for their own jobs, but also for vital front line services for their communities.  We call for funding to be maintained, and for the voices of our members to be listened to. Protect these vital services!

Unite is calling on MaPS to:

  • Pause the commissioning process for a period of at least 12 months
  • Consult with advisers and agencies to create a proposal for the future for debt advice that takes into account frontline advisers’ knowledge and a full assessment of the impact of coronavirus
  • Provide immediate relief to overworked debt advisers by suspending the bureaucratic and time-consuming ‘Debt Advice Peer Assessment’ scheme

There are some simple actions to take to support the campaign:

  1. Write to Caroline Sarkiewicz, Chief Executive of MaPS at Money & Pensions Service, 120 Holborn, London EC1N 2TD using the points above in the content of the letter.
  2. Write and pose questions to Therese Coffey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions - therese.coffey.mp@parliament.uk including some of the suggested questions here.

Suggested questions:

“What assessment has been made of the need for, and geographical coverage of, face-to-face debt advice services after April 2022?”

“Can you commit that my constituents will have the same access to face to face debt advice after April 2022?”

“Do you agree that face-to-face debt advice is a crucial way that the most vulnerable in society get support to deal with their debts?”

“How have frontline debt advisers, and people with lived experience of debt, been directly involved in the MaPS commissioning process?”

  1. On social media:
    • Follow UDAN at @UniteDebt on twitter and facebook
    • Share the petition
    • Talk Money Week is on 8-12 November. During this week please include the hashtag #TalkMoney in your tweets. At other times, please use the hashtag #SaveDebtAdvice.


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