Charging for Advice?
Difficulties with funding and sustainability mean that some advice organisations are considering or have introduced charges for some advice services. This is a controversial issue given the traditional commitment of independent advice services to advice that is free at the point of delivery.
AdviceUK's discussion paper (download below) explores the topic and key issues as part of an open debate with members in 2011. Case studies and a discussion article are included. The issue will be debated at AdviceUK's Annual Conference on 13 October 2011. Click here for conference information.
Let us know what you think
Ethical issues relate to the potentially changed nature of the relationship with clients who may have seen the advice service a trusted source of free community support. Two tier services could emerge for those willing and able to pay and those who cannot. Pursuing payments from vulnerable clients could also be difficult.
Those considering charging should seek legal advice on applicable law and regulation. Charity law does not forbid charging, but charitable objectives and public benefit rules need to be borne in mind. Fees for a debt counselling licence and OISC regulation may become payable. Rules restrict practicing and non-practicing solicitor involvement in fee-paying services in not for profit services. A final decision notice from the Legal Services Board issued in June 2011 has confirmed that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) will not change its rules, which forbid charging for services by solicitors employed by not for profit agencies. To download the decision notice, click here. The SRA will continue to consider applications for a waiver of this rule, however. AdviceUK would like to hear from all members that have applied for a waiver.
Careful business planning and legal advice on structures for delivery is also essential. Market research is vital. A new legal structure, such as a Limited Company or Community Interest Company may be needed. Finance, VAT and tax issues must be considered.
AdviceUK is committed to the principle that advice should be free at the point of delivery but we accept that charging may provide a key to sustainability for some member organisations. We expect the majority of advice delivered by a member organisation to be free. We also expect clients to be fully informed about charges and to be under no obligation to pay or donate.
For further information, contact Phil Jew, Head of Policy.
Member of the month
Offering free debt advice for the west Kent area with over a 100 hundred volunteers.View "West Kent Debt Advice Centre" profile
Search the web using EveryClickPowered by EveryClick