Money and Debt Advice

Background and Funding Relationships

The Advice Quality Standard has been accredited against the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS - previously the Money Advice Service ) formal Quality Framework since April 2017 and as such, for any debt advice provider applying for accreditation against the AQS, either at Advice Only or Casework level, you will automatically be assessed against the requirements of the MaPS Quality Framework. 

Assessment against the MaPS framework will be made irrespective of any funding relationship that you may have with MaPS. However, holding a quality standard/code that is accredited to the  MaPS Quality Framework is one of the funding criteria applied by the Money and Pensions Service and is compulsory for those debt advice providers that are grant funded by MaPS.  

MaPS do not assess either an individual debt advice provider or an individual Adviser against the requirements of their framework.  Instead, third party owners were invited to submit their Standard/ Membership code or training programme/qualification for accreditation against the framework and an individual debt advice provider can evidence their alignment against the MaPS framework, by achieving and maintaining accreditation against the AQS.

What does this mean in practice? 

On a practical level this means that all advisers/caseworkers providing debt advice in your organisation must have undertaken MaPS accredited debt training or a debt advice qualification which enables the organisation to demonstrate that they have the appropriate knowledge for the debt advice related activities expected within their defined role.

In order to establish whether or not advisers/caseworkers have the appropriate knowledge MaPS have identified six activity sets which reflect the different tasks undertaken during the debt advice process; these activity sets are outlined in the table below.

Activity Set

Definition

Initial contact

The member of staff will be the first point of contact in the service for the client, they may explain the remit of the service, may gather basic personal information, provide information and/or signpost the client if appropriate

Support work

The member of staff may provide information relating to the remit of the service, collect client information, identify the client’s problem, identify related issues, identify any immediate or urgent priority matters, agree appropriate next steps and signpost or arrange a referral for the client to other services where appropriate.

Advice

The adviser will diagnose the client's problem(s), giving information and explaining options and helping the client decide between options.  The provision of information alone is not advice. Advice can include some action such as referral to another organisation, identifying options and next steps, giving assistance such as form filling and contacting third parties for information.  There is no rule about the maximum number of client contacts.

Casework/Specialist

The adviser takes on responsibility for the conduct of a case and/or an adviser takes action on behalf of the client. The adviser drives and manages the case and maintains a continuing relationship with the client.  Negotiation, advocacy and representation where appropriate are common features of casework.

Court representation

The adviser makes preparation for proceedings on behalf of the client, prepares the client for formal proceedings, and/or represents the client in formal proceedings in relation to their debts within the rights of audience for these proceedings.

Supervision

The adviser provides technical debt advice support to other advisers within and/or outside their own organisation. Line management alone does not constitute supervision, without the provision of technical debt advice support.

In order to help organisations prepare for assessment, MaPS has put in place a Self -Assessment process including a Staff List and Skills Matrix for all individuals involved in the delivery of debt advice.  The Staff List and Skills Matrix should identity all staff, paid and unpaid, working in debt advice within the organisation and should be completed in advance of the on-site AQS assessment. These documents can be found in the Self Assessment for Debt Advice providers on our Application Documentation pages.

These documents are part of the assessment process for money and debt advice providers and will allow your assessor to systematically compare learning completed against the register of MaPS accredited learning. 

Additional guidance is available at the MaPS Learning Pathway which can be found at the link below:

https://debtquality.org.uk/learning-pathway/

What happens if our money and debt advisers/caseworkers have not completed accredited training?

Corrective actions may arise in situations where it has not been possible to confirm learning has been completed that is relevant to the level and complexity.

Corrective action must take place within the timeframe as set out by the AQS assessment process i.e. 28 days from the date of the assessment.  Examples of corrective actions include: 

  • accredited learning has not been completed 
  • learning that has been completed does not match the level and complexity of individual roles 
  • learning was completed prior to the learning programme receiving accreditation 
  • supervisors are unable to provide evidence of appropriate learning.  

Where the assessor has identified a corrective action the debt advice provider must provide the assessor with the following forms of evidence as proof of the completed action:  

  • evidence of course attendance 
  • evidence of course booking for example the course provider booking confirmation

When accepting confirmation of a course booking as evidence of a corrective action, the next assessment will seek to confirm the adviser/caseworker did complete and successfully pass the course as planned.  

Money and Debt Advice Supervisors

For any individual operating as Supervisor for the money and debt advice team, they will be required to evidence appropriate learning to this level through one of the MaPS accredited learning routes.  Supervisors will also need to demonstrate competence to the level of which they supervise, and therefore if members of the team also provide Court Representation, the Supervisor will be required to evidence learning at this higher level also. 

FCA (Financial Conduct Authority)

The Advice Quality Standard endorsement by the Money Advice and Pension Service also looks to ensure that money and debt advice providers are aware of the role of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the debt advice activities that fall within their regulation regime.

Whether or not your advice service should be regulated by the FCA can only be determined through discussion with an FCA adviser. Your AQS Assessor will request evidence of FCA authorisation or written confirmation confirming your advice service is exempt.