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Advice service fails to hit action targets

The Government-funded Money Advice Service (MAS) came under renewed scrutiny this week as it admitted generating less than 284,000 financial action plans for website visitors in six months, against a full year target of one million.

MAS said it now had 30,000 "customers" a week, a rise of 8% on the previous year.

But independent financial advisers, who have been critical of MAS's promise of "advice" for what is general guidance, questioned how many of the 703,000 website visitors were actually being helped.

MAS said it engaged with 72,000 people directly, 26,000 by phone or webchat and 46,000 face to face through partners such as Citizens Advice. When MAS launched in Scotland in June 2011, it said its UK-wide target was to help 100,000 people face to face.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, told Treasury committee MPs recently the MAS marketing budget of £19 million, out of a total £46m, was "colossal", when Citizens Advice was able to spend only £20m a year in total on debt advice. MAS's spend, she said, appeared to be "to no great effect".

One IFA blogged: "Only 72,000 actually asked for help, so that's £6388 each, sounds pretty expensive."

The organisation's chief executive Tony Hobman was forced to quit in July after MPs lambasted the organisation and particularly his £350,000 salary.

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