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Economy: Consumer Financial Capability

Volume 688: debated on Monday 15 January 2007

My honourable friend the Economic Secretary (Ed Balls) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government's long-term approach for financial capability, which is announced today, intends to raise consumers' financial capability—the knowledge, skills and motivation to actively engage with their finances—to achieve lasting benefits for individuals, the financial services industry and the wider UK economy.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) leads the national strategy on financial capability, working in partnership with the Government, industry and the voluntary sector. In 2006 the FSA identified low levels of financial capability across the UK population and particularly among young people. The Government have an active role to play in meeting the financial capability challenge. The Government's long-term aspirations are to ensure that:

all adults in the UK have access to high-quality generic financial advice to help them to engage with their financial affairs and make effective decisions about their money;

all children and young people have access to a planned and coherent programme of personal finance education, so that they leave school with the skills and confidence to manage their money well; and

a range of government programmes are focused on improving financial capability, particularly to help those who are most vulnerable to the consequences of poor financial decisions.

To meet these aspirations the Government will review their policies and programmes with the potential to raise financial capability. This will include the curriculum, services aimed at children, young people and families, the Child Trust Fund, adult skills, retirement planning and effective signposting for information on personal finance from a range of government services. To take forward this agenda the Government will:

set up an independent feasibility study, led by Otto Thoresen, chief executive of AEGON UK, to research and design a national approach to generic financial advice;

establish a ministerial group to develop, oversee and co-ordinate the Government's work, ensuring a cross-cutting approach to financial capability; and

publish an action plan by the end of 2007, setting out how financial capability will be integrated into existing services, particularly for those most vulnerable to the consequences of poor financial skills.

The Government's long-term approach forges an ambitious agenda that supports the wealth of emerging best practice by the FSA, the voluntary sector and the financial services industry. The Government are seeking views from stakeholders on the issues raised in the document. Copies of the paper are available in the Vote Office, House Libraries and the Printed Paper Office.