Earlier this week, I spoke in the House of Commons about the importance of ensuring that everybody has affordable and equitable access to independent financial advice.
The Government is in the process of streamlining several financial advice providers into a single service. This is a wise and indeed overdue step. But as I told the House, there is currently a huge gap in provision.
So-called ‘high net worth’ individuals have access to all the financial advice money can buy. The worst off can avail themselves of several state-run or charity-run support services and advice helplines.
But when the industry moved away from the old, commission-based model for selling financial advice – for very good reasons, as the implosion of Equitable Life made clear – it left nothing for the millions of people in the middle.
It’s vital that we close this gap. The financial, social, and even medical costs of being scammed or falling into debt are enormous, and so much of that could be prevented if people were able to access reliable advice before the worst happened. New technology offers providers cost-effective ways of meeting this need that were unimaginable when I was filling out hand-written ledgers back in the day, and it’s time for the sector to step up to the plate.
There are also huge benefits to giving children a firm grounding in financial matters at an early age, and as chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Education for Young People I am at the forefront of the campaign to see this vital subject made a mandatory and properly financed part of the curriculum.
Another subject I spoke on this week was Personal Independence Payments, and it was a useful reminder of the connection between the two parts of my role: helping the Government to shape legislation, and helping local residents.
My office has helped dozens of people with their PIP applications since I was elected: we seek support if they have concerns, lodge complaints in the event of delays or lost information, and have supported individuals preparing for tribunals.
This ability to see how policy is working ‘on the ground’, and feed that experience back into Parliament, is why the relationship between MPs and individual constituencies is so valuable. I know that helping and talking to local residents has made me a better legislator, and I’m sure my Parliamentary colleagues would say the same.
Originally published in the Solihull Observer, 25/01/18.