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Website reviews

18 July 05

Reviews of websites concerning money advice

by Iain Nisbet


Money Scotland

www.moneyscotland.gov.uk

This website is, essentially, the homepage for the new Debt Arrangement Scheme (or DAS). The scheme is a new type of “diligence stopper” which can be used in some circumstances where a client has multiple debts. You can only help someone to get a scheme set up if you are an approved money adviser, so the site has a search facility to help you locate the nearest approved adviser. This feature would be more useful if there were more money advisers approved – at present there are only 31, which seem to be concentrated in particular areas (notably Fife and Edinburgh). A solicitor can qualify as an approved adviser, but requires to take a short course on money advice, and none have done so to date.

There is some useful information on the site about the DAS and how it is supposed to work, but the site navigation is a little awkward, with the result that it is difficult to follow the thread of the information being given and the user tends to be thrown off on various tangents, and lose the point of what they were reading (at least that is what happened to me). There are, if you can find them, downloadable guides, for debtors and creditors, to the legislation and the various statutory forms involved, which is useful.

Accountant in Bankruptcy

www.aib.gov.uk

Having visited a number of government websites recently I have been pleased to see a consistent note of quality and accessibility, which is unfortunately altogether lacking in this site. It looks like it has been cobbled together by an accountant, and the source code reveals that FrontPage is the culprit software used. More seriously, the site fails on the accessibility front – rendering it almost useless to some visitors. A shame, since government websites generally perform well in this field.

Assuming you are fortunate enough to be able to access the site, the content is brilliant. Honestly, pretty much everything you ever wanted (or might ever need) to know about not having any money left is right here. Legislation, policy, FAQs, publications, guidance notes, statutory documents and all the forms and letters that go with them – all on the same website and just a few clicks away. Just get someone in to fix the web design, please.

National Debtline (Scotland)

www.nationaldebtline.co.uk/scotland

As the name suggests, this is primarily a telephone advice line, but there are a number of useful features on the website too. Some of these may well be helpful to your clients, like customisable standard letters to creditors (generated automatically in PDF) and a downloadable debt information pack. Others you may find useful yourself: the personal budget section includes a programme to download, which will calculate affordable repayments on your computer; plus the many factsheets are legally accurate and would act as useful primers/cribsheets.

There were a couple of broken links and those of you using browsers other than IE may experience a few glitches (overlapping text, difficulties with down-loads etc), but overall the site is definitely worth a visit.

Citizens’ Advice Scotland

www.cas.org.uk

The CAS website has been overhauled since I last had cause to visit. It is visually more appealing and aims to be more accessible too. The navigation and ease of use have definitely improved and the information generated by the site for local CAB information works much better too – especially useful if you wish to refer an enquirer to their closest bureau.

As far as money advice is concerned, you would have to look to the sister site to this one. I reviewed www.adviceguide.org.uk in January 2004 (wide-ranging and probably quite helpful but not brilliantly detailed or consistently accurate), and do not propose to do more than remind you of its existence. In all fairness, if you need to consult the AdviceGuide site on a particular issue, you probably shouldn’t be advising others on it.

Money Advice Scotland

www.moneyadvicescotland.org.uk

Money Advice Scotland strives to improve the quality of money advice in Scotland and much of this site is given over to details of training for money advisers. However, if you look in detail you may find a few useful nuggets. For example, if you visit the news page: www.moneyadvicescotland.org.uk/news/news_detail.php?NewsID=15 and download the Excel spreadsheet offered there, you find a neat little application designed to assist those sitting their money adviser exams for the DAS. However (with little or no adaptation) it could quite happily sit on your laptop ready to work out all those pesky pro rata calculations for you in double quick time. Simple.