Free financial advice service unveiled

The blueprint for a national free financial advice service has been set out in the final report of the Thoresen Review of Generic Financial Advice, published today.

This includes an emphasis on the workplace as an avenue for delivering financial advice.

The report recommends that a national money guidance service is put in place to provide people with the necessary knowledge and understanding of financial issues to make better decisions on money matters. The service would provide guidance on budgeting, saving, tax and welfare benefits, and saving and borrowing. It would be offered using a combination of telephone, internet and face-to-face guidance.

The author of the report, Otto Thoresen, said: “I believe good money sense needs to be as much part of peoples’ lives in the twenty-first century as healthy eating and keeping fit. In research we commissioned, 75% of people surveyed said they would use a national information and guidance service for personal financial issues.”

Thoresen recommends that a partnership model should be used to deliver the service with a central body to direct strategy, set standards and provide some of the services, while accredited partner organisations would actually deliver the bulk of the service.

The cost of providing the service would be equally split between the government and the financial services industry. The industry’s share will be raised by a levy, with contributors drawn from firms regulated by the Financial Services Authority, consumer credit firms regulated by the Office of Fair Trading, and National Savings and Investment.

Joanne Segars, chief executive of the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF), said: “The introduction of the money guidance service is a welcome and much-needed innovation and we look forward to supporting the service as it is formed.

“We are particularly heartened that the workplace is seen as a key part of the proposed new service. The NAPF’s experience through its Pensionsforce service has shown that face-to-face meetings are the most popular and effective means of communicating financial issues that can prompt people into action.”