There were two very good comments on my blog on MAPS’ recent webinar. My thrust was that MAPS is not behaving as it should and that it should be acting as the financial arm of our NHS – with acute care available today and support for chronic conditions going forward.
I print both here – expanding Ian’s as it is effectively a link to his vlog/blog. Both add to my thinking.
The first comment is from Howard Gannaway who is one of Britain’s leading financial planners and someone , though he disagrees with my blog, that I have an enormous amount of time for.
Thanks for highlighting this, Henry, but I fear your observations are indicative of coming late to the party. MAPS is not a johnny-come-lately outfit. It is the latest incarnation of a movement that has been building since the year 2000, when David Blunkett convened the Financial Literacy Advisory Group (AdFLAG), drawing in a really wide spectrum of organisations, including educationists, third sector organisations, policy groups and the private sector. The FSA went on to be the flagbearer for this group and devised the first Financial Capability Strategy after one of the most detailed pieces of social research this country has ever seen.
Over the years since then, the number of people and organisations has grown and grown. The FSA’s role was handed on to the Money Advice Service, which in turn morphed into the current Money and Pensions Service. It is not a London-centric operation. They have officers across the UK and the organisations that they engage with are similarly widespread.
You warn against MAPS merely taking credit for what the private sector does but, in recent years, it has largely been the work of MAS/MAPS that has fired up the interest of the private sector in looking at the financial capability of its workforces. All this has been done against a backdrop of experimentation and evaluation that would put many academic organisations to shame. Private sector companies have participated in evaluation of their financial education programmes that has rated them less than stellar but they have still been brave enough to post these results online – keep coming back for more.
Is MAPS perfect? Certainly not. They have their flaws and challenges like the rest of us. Successive governments have decided that the campaign for greater financial wellbeing and capability should not be a megalithic NHS-type operation but is best pursued through the vast network of national and local organisations from all sectors that have been largely marshalled together by MAS/MAPS. Your financial NHS is never going to happen in the UK. It’s not our way and I suspect it’s not really your way.
The campaigns over the years to change the relationship of the public with their money is like the classic image of getting an oil tanker to change direction. It is a long haul and I for one am glad that the Money and Pensions Service is in it for the long haul.
The second comment is from Aries’ Ian Neale who also picks up on my wish to see MaPS as a financial NHS.
Ian’s video is excellent but if you would prefer to read the transcript – it is here.
I think our country needs a National Wealth Service. That’s right, ‘Wealth’. I’m going to tell you why! Before the Second World War, many people could not afford to go to the doctor or the dentist.
To avoid this, my own grandmother had all her teeth replaced by false teeth. The need for that kind of radical ‘preventative medicine’ was removed by the creation of the National Health Service in July 1948.
If there is a national consensus about anything these days, it’s that the NHS must be preserved. No politician will attack the principle that healthcare should be freely available on the basis of need, not ability to pay. Aneurin Bevan, the health minister in the post-War government, had a hard fight against strong opposition from the British Medical Association.
They objected to the idea that doctors would be ordered around by bureaucrats, seeing the NHS as a threat to their professional freedom. Of course, private medical practice has continued to thrive alongside the NHS. You can still choose to ‘go private’, if you have insurance or the means to pay. But we are agreed that physical and mental well-being is the province of the NHS. When it comes to financial well-being though, we’re largely on our own.
True, there is guidance available if you know where to look for it, and the advent of the internet has helped. We’ve all had the experience, though, of feeling more confused after reading about options we hadn’t even imagined before we started looking. And as we all know, guidance is about what you could do: what people really need to know is what they should do, ie they need financial advice.
That costs money, and the truth is that people aren’t willing to pay for advice: partly because they don’t trust financial advisers.
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Drawing analogies between physical health and financial health is an attractive thought and one that has been used regularly over the years. I am no great expert on the NHS but my understanding is that, when it was created, its main area of focus was on very widespread health problems that affected a large majority of the population. However, over the years and for reasons that I for one do not understand, it appears that the NHS has had to direct its efforts at the minority, albeint large minority, of people who have more serious long-term illnesses. The fact that it is now widely the case that those less seriously unwell have greater difficulties and delays in obtaining medical advice and help from the NHS has no doubt encouraged the growth of the self-help revolution that is largely supported through the internet.
I make this point because friends who work in the NHS tell me it is neither national nor about health and barely a service. So the question is: do you want a National Wealth Service to be like the NHS when it was young or as it is now? Ian and yourself are right to indicate that financial advice (the equivalent of seeing a consultant?) is expensive. It is. no doubt, the perceived costs that have been and continue to be a major factor keeping successive governments firmly in the camp of diversified provision of financial wellbeing support and guidance.
And there is some sense in this. If the theory behind the NHS was that we should all pay into a system that treated the sick because we might be among them at some time, with obvious similarities to other insurance principles, then how are we to rationalise a National Wealth Service when it appears that the majority of the country is financially unwell and any taxation to fund it would be more or less recycled to everyone?
Have the government-favoured market-driven options been any better? In some ways: they have certainly brought more players onto the field than would have been the case with an NHS option but what is the quality of this diverse delivery? However, it has been frustrating, to say the least, over the years to see that the organisations and businesses who have been drawn into the ‘movement’ have almost invariably wanted to reinvent the wheel and devise their own new system and approach, often with very little background knowledge, theory or experience. Here, MAPS really do deserve our respect for being brave enough to grasp the nettle of challenging this ‘no more experts’ approach and bring the issues of evidence and quality to the fore and it has been gratifying to see some of the largest players putting themselves under microscope of independent evaluation.
Much as I can appreciate the comfort of calling for an NHS approach, I think we need to accept that this ship has sailed. Successive Governments have been happy to rather use a portion of the FSA/FCA levy to fund MAPS and its predecessors. This is now significantly increased by the additional amounts that industry is contributing through its own efforts. The third sector remains largely harnessed through the mechanisms of challenge funding, with all the associated waste of their time and resources involved in bidding for funding.
So I support your challenge to MAPS, Henry. We all need a good challenge from outside but your experience with the dashboard must have shown you that the private/third sectors can sometimes do a better job than governments!