Sustainable Debt Advice

What is the Sustainable Debt Advice Project?

AdviceUK’s Sustainable Debt Advice Project, or SDAP, is aiming to provide alternative sources of funding for the free debt advice sector.  It is also aiming to improve the sustainability of debt repayments, benefiting both clients and creditors.

After piloting the SDAP model with 9 advice agencies, AdviceUK is making it available to more agencies.

What has happened so far?

The pilot phase of the project ran from April 2012 to March 2013 and was then independently evaluated by Public Perspectives, specialists in research and evaluation for the public and third sectors.  The summary and full reports are now available:

We were delighted when the Institute of Money Advice (IMA) presented AdviceUK with its Best New Initiative Award at its Manchester conference on 20 May 2013 for its Sustainable Debt Advice Project. The IMA Best New Initiative Award celebrates initiatives that have improved the service to clients and have resulted in higher levels of performance and client satisfaction.

How does SDAP work?

AdviceUK is working in partnership with Payplan and ACMS, the developers of the AdvicePro case management system.  We provide a fast track process for referring clients to Payplan for a DMP (Debt Management Plan) or IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement).  When a DMP or IVA has been successfully established, a payment will be made to the referring agency.

We also provide access to Payplan’s payment distribution system so that clients can make a single regular payment for disbursement to both priority and non-priority creditors.

What agencies are eligible to implement SDAP?

SDAP is being made available to a limited number of agencies that provide free-to-client debt advice.  They will need to have completed the implementation of the AdvicePro case management system including its money module, with all debt advisers trained.  Agencies should be financial viable, and they will need to check that they do not have funding restrictions that prevent them receiving payments related to referrals. Subject to these factors and the need to involve a variety of different types of agency in the rollout, we plan to select agencies on a first come first served basis.

What will AdviceUK provide to participating agencies?

We will provide on-site training in the SDAP options, working with Payplan who will explain their Paylink payment disbursement system and what happens when a client is referred to them for a DMP or IVA.  This will take a maximum of one day.  We will provide documentation and continuing support.

After six months of payments have been made by a client under a DMP arrangement or an IVA set up by Payplan, the agency will receive a payment.

Your AdvicePro system will be configured so that you can make fast track DMP and IVA referrals to Payplan, linking directly into their systems.

Access to Payplan’s Paylink payment disbursement system will be provided to your advisers.

What are the criteria for a client to be eligible for an SDAP option?

DMP and IVA Referrals to Payplan

DMP and IVA referrals can be made to Payplan if the client has arrangements in place for any priority debts, at least £5,000 of non-priority debt, at least 2 creditors and £50 or more per month surplus income.  Before the referral, the agency is expected to have completed a full financial statement with the client, discussed all relevant debt remedy options and the client selected a DMP or IVA as their preferred option.  Your adviser should explain in outline to the client what will happen when they are referred to Payplan.  The client will then go straight to the completion of an assessment with Payplan, bypassing the initial Payplan helpline.

Paylink Payment Disbursement System

Any client who wants to make regular payments to their creditors can take advantage of Paylink.  Typically it will be used for token payments and low offers to creditors, but it can also be used to make larger payments, and for priority as well as non-priority debt repayments.

What else is required of an agency?

Advisers will need to be available for training.  We expect that the SDAP options will be offered to all clients who meet the criteria and for whom they appear realistic.

AdviceUK will draw on anonymised data from both AdvicePro and Payplan’s systems for the purpose of monitoring the project. We will also ask for regular feedback on your experiences of using SDAP.

Cases that use the Paylink payment disbursement system will continue to be owned by the agency.  This will need to include regular reviews and responding to issues raised by the client and Payplan, until such a time as the client ceases to make payments through the system.

What are the plans for the future?

We will continue to review regularly the effectiveness of the SDAP model with agencies, Payplan, clients and creditors.  Dependent on its success, we will provide progressive improvements to the technology supporting SDAP.  A redevelopment of the Paylink payment disbursement system is planned.  We also want to introduce more integration between AdvicePro and Payplan’s systems.

The amounts paid for successful DMP and IVA referrals will be reviewed periodically.

How can I find out more or sign up for SDAP?

Contact David Hawkes at or telephone 0300 777 0107 for more information or to sign up your agency.

Tell Me More

Project Scope

The scope of the project includes agencies that are either AdviceUK members or who employ IMA members, in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The pilot included 9 agencies representative of a wide range of different types of organisation providing free debt advice.  This is now being extended to more agencies.

Project Process Model

Agencies use the process described below and in the attached diagram.  Agencies continue to interview clients as usual, conducting the normal diagnostic interviews, taking a holistic view. In all cases, any option selected should continue to be with the agreement of the client and in their best interests. Options for clients can be summarised:

DMP / IVA / Trust Deeds

Debt Management Plans (DMPs), Individual Voluntary Agreements (IVAs) and Trust Deeds that fit the Payplan criteria will be referred to Payplan (with the client’s agreement). Payplan’s criteria are, for example for DMPs, that clients must have a disposable income of at least £50 per calendar month. For these cases, client information is recorded in AdvicePro and this is sent electronically to Payplan who will then manage relationships with clients and creditors.

Low offers / Token payments

For cases where only a low offer or token payment is possible, details are recorded in AdvicePro, and the agency sets up a single payment from the client for all creditors. The agency will work with the client as necessary to ensure they have the means to make the single payment, e.g. by standing order or cash payment. We are working with a major bank to provide an easy means for clients to set up a basic bank account with standing order.
Client information is recorded in AdvicePro and a Common Financial Statement agreed with the client. Payplan’s SDAP Paylink disbursement system is then used to automatically send client payments out to creditors, so no cash handling is required by the agency.
The agency will continue to own the relationship with the client so will need to engage further with the client for regular case reviews and if, for example, regular payments are not maintained.

Other options

There is no change to any other options (DROs, bankruptcy, write-offs etc.)

The Pilot Process

Who is funding the project?

Friends Provident Foundation generously provided a grant for the pilot phase.  Further funding is currently being sought to support more investment in the SDAP model and its roll out.

What do we mean by debt advice?

We use the phrase debt advice to mean the structured framework used to enable clients to manage and resolve their debt problems. To help you decide if your service is eligible, we would expect it would involve:

  • a diagnosis of the enquiry and legal issues involved
  • giving information and explaining options
  • identifying further action the client can take
  • some assistance, such as seeking information from third parties or filling in forms.

The service would also take action on behalf of the client to move the case on, for example, negotiating with third parties. We would expect advisers to meet the generalist and caseworker competences set out in the Money Advice Trust’s Money Advice Standards. We would also expect advisers to follow the Institute of Money Advisers’ Money Advice Statement of Good Practice:

What is AdvicePro?

It’s an online case management system that we have developed in partnership with the Law Centres Federation and ACMS. It is easy to use and it continually evolves to meet the needs of advice agencies. It is being modified for the pilot agencies so that it can link to Payplan’s disbursement system for low offers and token payments. There is some more information on our website:

For more information on SDAP:

Contact David Hawkes at or telephone 0300 777 0107.

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