Who is Providing Money Advice in Scotland?

Who is Providing Money Advice in Scotland?

Despite experiencing cuts of up to 45% in funding between 2014 and 2017, new statistics produced by the Accountant in Bankruptcy (AIB), released under Freedom of Information legislation, shows that locally based, face to face money advice services across Scotland continue to be major providers of formal debt solutions.

By Agency Type

The statistics show, by agency, who is providing access to the Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS) and issuing Certificates of Sequestration (COS) (the primary route used to enter bankruptcy).

Although the largest agency, by far, is Stepchange, the national debt charity, what is also revealed is that local, face to face money advice agencies (which includes local authority services, Citizen Advice Bureaux, and independent advice agencies) continue to provide more access to these debt solutions combined than any other agency type.

Also, as the AIB only list agencies by name where they have done more than 25 solutions within the last year, with 1,251 solutions not being attributed to any agency, the numbers for local, face to face service is likely to be higher.

Stepchange 1,1515481,69930
Insolvency Practitoners52126778814
Local Face to Face3171,4021,71913
Christians Against Povertyn/a70701

The breakdown for face to face advice agencies can be seen below:

Local Authority 16457173543
Citizen Advice Bureaux15371186450

National Providers

Interestingly, the statistics also show that (excluding private sector insolvency practitioners and Stepchange) national helplines and national debt charities provide very few solutions for clients in Scotland.

Christians Against Povertyn/a70704

This is important, as it is believed up to half of the Financial Conduct Authority Debt Advice Levy for Scotland, historically has been going to fund national helpline providers.

Interestingly, organisations like Advice Direct Scotland (who operate Citizen Advice Direct) and the National Debt Line are absent from the statistics altogether and Christian Against Poverty’s statistic are not much more than those of many local advice agencies.

This is also important, as when The Common Financial Tool regulations were passing through the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government tried to argue the evidence led by many local, face to face advice agencies was unrepresentative of the sector. Instead they relied on evidence of organisations who either don’t appear in these statistics or only play a small part in providing clients with formal debt solutions in Scotland.

Informal Solutions

However, the true significance of the figures are only understood when they are viewed in the light of the statistics produced by the Improvement Services into local authority funded, money advice services in 2016-17 (this included Citizen Advice Bureaux, council services, and independent advice agencies).

These showed that across Scotland these services reported approximately 111,000 contacts with clients, and of those approximately 49,000 were with new clients.

However, of the 8,022 debt strategies agreed with clients in that year, sequestrations only accounted for 16% , and the Debt Arrangement Scheme 8%.

This clearly shows that formal debt solutions represent a small, albeit significant, percentage of the solutions that were suitable for clients who sought advice from free sector, face to face money advice services in Scotland.

Statistic produce by Improvement Service

FCA Debt Advice Levy

These figures don’t cover Trust Deeds, which are exclusively provided by insolvency practitioners (private sector ) (there were 5,958 protected in Scotland in 2017-18).

What is clear, however, is that local face to face money advice services continue to be a major provider of formal debt solutions across Scotland.

What is also clear is that with FCA Debt Advice Levy Funding now being devolved to the Scottish Government, and with suggestions that up to 50% of it historically has been going to national debt charities, it is now time for these spending committements to be reviewed.

The Scottish Government is  currently consulting on how the funding should be spent from 2020 onwards.

It can only be hoped the importance of locally based, face to face money advice services across Scotland will be acknowleged.

Statistics on Debt Arrangement Scheme 2017-18 can be found here.

Statistics on Certificates of Sequestration 2017-18 can be found here.

Advice.Scot: When Imitation is Poor Flattery

Advice.Scot: When Imitation is Poor Flattery

For some bizarre reason, Advice Direct Scotland, an independent Scottish Charity, and an Independent Member of the Scottish Association of Citizen Advice Bureaux, has decided to run a pay per click campaign to promote their Advice.Scot site using the name of this site, Advice Scotland.

To save I am peeved is an understatement.

I have been operating this personal blog site, on a not for profit basis, since 2013 (it’s predecessor was www.morallybankrupt.co.uk), with the sole purpose of supplying information to people interested in finding out more about their personal debt problems, like other blogs, such as Debt Camel.

I registered www.advicescotland.com before Advice Direct Scotland’s online domain name was registered (advice.scot). A site that I find to be a shallow, static site, with a few telephone numbers and an online search facility that allows access to external resources.  Basically very little on the site itself for those that access it.

A site that also states that the online name for Advice Scotland Direct is “Advice.Scot”.

If that is the case, then why are they using the online name for this site in the headings for their own Pay Per Click campaigns. Why not use their own online name?

What is most infuriating about this, is the likely result will be my readers, or people searching for my site being taken to the wrong site. A site that in my opinion is far inferior in quality and content. This may be unavoidable, as we all know there is no shortage of less than reputable companies out there that utilise marketing strategies that are intended to mislead internet users into believing they are visiting one site when they are visiting another. But for that situation to be created by a member of the Scottish Citizen Advice Bureaux? Really?

What is wrong with Advice Direct Scotland’s own online identity that they can’t use that for their campaigns? If I can give them a bit of advice, you need to work at it, its hard work and it takes time and commitment to build your online identity.

Advice Scotland

Since 2013, www.advicescotland.com has always operated under the same name, Advice Scotland and had it’s own distinct brand and look, and through hard work I have built up a loyal following of readers who return each month, whilst attracting many more new ones. When people seek personalised advice in the comments boxes, as you will see, I refer them onto reputable providers of advice,  such as Scotland’s Citizen Advice Bureaux, the National Debtline and the Scottish Buisness Debtline, or I suggest they seek the advice of a professional.

A Labour of Love

The site has become a labour of love, and has become a major occupier of my time, trying to produce regular quality blogs, updates and videos.  Then there is the cost of maintaining a server service, keeping domain names registered and paying for software and SSL certificates to ensure the site remain safe for people to visit. All out of my own pocket.

Then there is the cost on my time. I don’t have marketing assistant, PPC campaign officers or desktop publishers: I have built this site from the ground up several times now, wrote all the blogs myself (and I am still trying to upload historic blogs from my previous site) and make all the videos myself.

I have been maintaining this site and its predecessor since 2010, nine years now, whilst also being a prolific contributor to the print and online journals of other people and organisations, such as that of the Scottish Legal Action Group, the Scottish Financial News, the Scottish Legal New, The Firm and the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland. In any average week over the last 10 years (and some of the earliest blogs on this site date back to 2008), I have easily averaged 2 to 3 blogs a week on the issue of money advice. Hard work and commitment.

In addition to this I still have my day job as a Senior Money Adviser, managing staff, representing clients in courts and contributing to the development of debt policy in Scotland.

To then have another organisation to use the name of my blog (rather than their own online identity) is galling, particularly when their own debt resources on their site constitutes one or two paragraphs.

Now I can only assume the use of the Advice Scotland was intentional, but possibly it was an oversight that this was also the identity of my blog. If it was, I can only ask that going forward it is changed and I look forward to working with www.advice.scot as part of the online money advice community in Scotland.

www.advice.scot debt advice page.

If it was not an oversight, I am flattered they like the name of my blog, Advice Scotland, but it is mine and surely they must appreciate more than anyone, just because you like it does not mean you can have it.

And what was I doing last night until 3am? Writing a blog and making a video. That is how you build a site.

Scottish Adviser