Do you think, now you have been in post for a while and had a chance to grapple with it, that it may be too wide and too complex, and that Parliament would have been better giving you something somewhat narrower and simpler? Caroline rookes: no, i do not think. I think it is essential that someone has that wide remit, because for me it is those you two very wide statutory objectives-to raise peoples understanding and to raise peoples ability to manage their money-that give us, if you like, the locus to work with the. That is very much how I see the money advice services role developing over the next few years. Q482 John Thurso: by sheer coincidence, i attended quite recently a meeting in my part of the world where there was a young lady from Money advice who was giving some advice to some fairly disadvantaged people. I asked the question, "How many of you can access the internet?" and the answer was there was not one in there, unless they came into this particular group. Looking at, if you like, with those people who you are just trying to give advice to, obviously working online is fine, but for those who are in difficulty, very often they are also digitally excluded. How can you assess the scale of that problem and what can you do about it? Caroline rookes: Well, in terms of assessing the scale of the problem, i come back to the research I was talking about at the outset to get a feel for the real size of the problem.
I have had meetings with most of the big banks and that is the same conversation we have with them. They have people who they can see are tipping over into difficulties, but they are people with whom, even when they offer help, it is rejected. Having said that, we do not have a magic wand. Our first step is raising awareness of the service. What we spent our marketing budget on last year was to increase awareness of the service so that people know that the money advice service is here. We are also working through a lot of partnerships to draw people to the advice service. For example, we have partnerships with things like mumsnet and Emmas diary so that at life stages when people have children, they are referred to our website. Those are the sorts of routes that we are taking to make the content engaging and draw people. Q481 John Thurso: your own business plan makes the very obvious statement: "we are a very new organisation with a wide and complex remit".
Caroline rookes: I think i would answer that in two ways. The problem end is partially the debt advice end. As you say, though, these are people who are in trouble. Sometimes they have left it too-well, not too late, but they have left it late. With the debt advice, we were given the role last year to co-ordinate funding for face-to-face debt advice, but also to raise standards across free debt advice. One of the things we want to do, apart from raising standards, is to ensure that debt advice is accessible to all, and we are working with the main organisations like citizens Advice, stepChange and the money advice Trust to make sure that people can. On the money advice side, i think what you have hit on is the real issue: how do you engage people who are not interested in money and probably will not be until it is too late? I think that is an issue that all of us in the sector are grappling with.
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Q479 John Thurso: may i ask a simple question? Who are bibliography the core customers? Caroline rookes: Our service is a universal offering. It is there for everybody, but we are focusing on three main groups: young people; families with young children; and, indeed, those with older children. We did a piece of work based on some Experian data on financial segmentation. We have looked at segments-I think they had about 50-against a series of outcomes or elements that we think represent good money management: keeping debt under control; saving regularly; saving for retirement; insurance; and provision for dependants. We have looked at these segments against those five outcomes, and there are three segments, which are the ones I listed, where we have the most concern.
We will be particularly targeting those groups, but I do say again english that that is in the context of a service that is universal and will provide coverage for all. Q480 John Thurso: I suppose what i am driving at is that there are a lot of people who are moderately savvy about money and so on and who know they need advice. They will go and look and get advice. They are perfectly bona fide customers. There are also a lot of people who do not know they need advice and who find out they are in trouble when they get into trouble. I am really trying to understand, given you are a relatively new organisation in quite a complex area, to what extent you are focused on the problem end, if you like, as opposed to the general advice end.
What that has done is it has surveyed 5,000 people to ask them about their money and how they manage. Of those 5,000 people, 800 of them are money advice service customers, and our intention is to continue to carry that survey out on a quarterly basis so that we can build up a picture of the financial capability of the. In addition to that, we have carried out some qualitative research. We have carried out a number of types of research, but the biggest piece is something called an ethnographic survey, where 72 families have been followed-not continuously-with their agreement for a year, and filmed in their money dealings, so that we can get a better. The idea for us is to pull all that together into a research report into a baseline survey of the financial capability of the country, which we will then use going forward to assess how effective we are being. In addition to that, we of course monitor the number of people who we see, who use our telephone service and who use our website.
We use exit polls to establish whether they have got the advice they want and whether, having got that advice, it has helped them to take the action that they want. We have quite a range of ways of measuring our performance, and if you would like more detail, we can send it to you. Q478 Mr Tyrie: we would like some if we could, because there is nothing coming along with this statement that you are going to get to know better the people whom you are trying to serve. Caroline rookes: That will be primarily the research that we publish next month. We will be publishing it probably in about two weeks, and that will give a much fuller, richer picture of people in the. Mr Tyrie: It would be helpful, too, if you could take a look at the language to see if you can simplify as much as possible some of the statements that are being made in your documents. This is only one of a good number of examples of rather curious phraseology that can be reduced to very simple thoughts if, in this case, you want to get to know the people you are serving.
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Q476 Mr Tyrie: so you might need more money. Caroline rookes: I do not anticipate that we would need more money, but we have not yet done our planning-or, rather, not yet completed. We are in evernote the process of doing it now. Q477 Mr Tyrie: your current business plan states that you will use a range of qualitative and quantitative research methods to develop: "A richer understanding of our audience, their behaviours and the levers that can be used to make a real difference to peoples financial. What that means, i think, is that you are intending to try to get to know your clients. There does not seem to be much detail on the methods that you intend to use. Have you specified them anywhere else in such a way that we could assess your performance? Caroline rookes: we are in the process of putting together a document, which we intend to publish next month, on the basis of setting out the findings from a major piece of research that we have done, both qualitative and quantitative. That is research that we are going to repeat quarterly.
On the debt advice side, last year we increased productivity by over 50, so i think there are some real achievements there. Q474 Mr Tyrie: When you took over, did you take a look at whether, were mas not to exist, the space would be filled by voluntary action? Caroline rookes: I did not particularly because i was recruited to run mas, so i was not looking at what would happen if mas was not there. I have veterans been looking at, and indeed talking to, the whole range of stakeholders that are out there to consider what their role is and what they are doing so that we can work collaboratively with them. Q475 Mr Tyrie: have you looked at whether mas should be smaller? Caroline rookes: i am conscious of the need for mas to demonstrate value for money at all times. At the moment, we are in the process of developing a three-year plan and our next years business plan, and it is in the context of that that we will need to look at the funding that we require.
I can tell you how I see the organisation four and a half months in, and I think that it is doing very well. I think it has turned a corner and that it has some real achievements under its belt. Q473 Mr Tyrie: could you perhaps just articulate an achievement and the purpose of mas in a sentence or so? Caroline rookes: I would say that the purpose of mas, in a sentence-in a nutshell-is to help people to manage their money, either directly through its own services, or in partnership with other organisations. We do that through money advice; we do it through debt advice; and we do it through, if you like, a leadership role. We try to bring together the financial capability sector to make sure that we are all working effectively together. In terms of achievements, i would point to the.5 million people who have been helped by the money advice service so far and the fact that while numbers are certainly not everything, we have exit polls that tell us that satisfaction ratings are very. Three quarters of people who have used the money advice service have found the information they needed and taken action.
It will be printed in due course. Oral evidence, taken before the the Treasury sub-Committee on Monday, members present: Mr george mudie (Chair). Mark garnier, mr Andrew love, john Mann, mr Brooks Newmark. Jesse norman, john Thurso, mr Andrew Tyrie examination of Witness, witness: Caroline rookes cbe, chief Executive, money advice service, gave evidence. Chair: Thank you very much for coming. Mr Tyrie is going to start. Q472 Mr Tyrie: could I begin, caroline rookes? You have had quite a lot of critical comments fired at your organisation, including about the quality of the website and the lack of clarity over its purpose, and some trenchant criticisms from the citizens advice bureau as well.
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House of commons, oral evidence, taken before the, treasury sub-committee. Money advice service, monday, caroline rookes cbe. Evidence heard in Public questions. Use of the transcript. This is a corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the house. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the committee, and copies have been made available by the vote Office essay for the use of Members and others. The transcript is an approved formal record of these proceedings.