Examination of Witnesses (Questions 133-139)|
14 FEBRUARY 2006
Q133 Chairman: Good morning and welcome
to the evidence session on financial inclusion. Can you introduce
yourselves for the shorthand writer, please?
Mr Lovell: Certainly. My name
is Mark Lovell from A4e, Group Chief Executive.
Mr Trigg: I am Jon Trigg and I
am A4e's Group Project Development Director.
Mr Hart: I am Steve Hart, the
Regional Service Delivery Manager.
Q134 Chairman: Welcome to the Committee;
we are delighted to have you all here. Can I ask you to speak
up in your answers because we are a little bit away from you here?
First of all, Mark, could you tell us about your organisation?
Mr Lovell: Yes, I can give you
a bit of background on us. A4e works across a number of different
areas of government. We deliver business services, we deliver
welfare services and help people back into work; we are involved
in some urgent financial inclusion and exclusion. We work with
the DTI, the DWP, the Department of Constitutional Affairs, Sure
Startit is quite broad ranging. Recently it has been interesting
because our work has taken us overseas to work with governments
in the Middle East, the US and some of the eastern European countries.
So it has been very interesting for us to compare and contrast
the work we are doing in the UK with government and some of the
overseas work. So I will keep it brief and short and probably
get into some of the detail that the Committee is interested in.
Q135 Chairman: And you are a not
for profit organisation?
Mr Lovell: No, we are a private
Q136 Chairman: So how do your services
help promote financial inclusion?
Mr Lovell: For the past 20 years
we have been working in a welfare arena and over the years one
of the key issues that we have noticed to become of increasing
importance in helping people back into work was around poverty
and financial inclusion and exclusion, so over the past two to
three years a lot of our work has majored on looking at developing
services and support for people in poverty and people who do not
have access to financial products and services and to begin to
address that gap. And that has taken us into areas of work with
the DWP, the Department for Work and Pensions, the DTI on debt
advice and also the Department of Constitutional Affairs on debt
advice. It is probably helpful if Jon gives an outline and precis
of precisely what we do.
Mr Trigg: I always say that we
got into this via a Bic biro. At a conference, Mr Chairman, at
which you were the key note speaker, an official from the Department
for Work and Pensions dropped his pen, I lent him a replacement
and over lunch we got chatting about the work that we did, in
particular with those out of work and about getting them back
into the work arena, and in particular focused on the financial
inclusion issues that they had to become work ready, to have access
to an account and so on, and access to money advice and get them
out of debt if they were in that situation. That led on to our
work on a payment modernisation programme to support individuals
to access appropriate accountsand I stress appropriate,
we are not about selling any particular account over any other.
We wanted to broaden out our work from that because financial
inclusion, as you know well, has many facets to it, and so that
has seen us move very firmly into the area of debt advice and
money advice in general, and so on to supporting individuals really
to control their cash flow, I think is the best way to look at
it. We do that obviously on a national basis. One of the big points
that I would like to get over is that what we are able to do is
to touch thousands of people; in terms of direct payment we convert
over 100 people a day, so it is not a small affair. What we have
increasingly come up against, and so on, is that we think there
is a gap in the service provision at present, and where there
are many organisations operating at the sector in present and
doing some very good work, and that includes from the public,
the private and the voluntary sector, we just do not think that
the solution is more of the same, and so on, because this has
been going on some time and the problem is still there and growing.
Q137 Chairman: Your website states
that A4e helps thousands of people back into employment every
year. In order to receive employment assistance from your organisation
is it mandatory for individuals to hold a bank account?
Mr Lovell: No.
Q138 Chairman: How do you go about
it if they do not have a bank account?
Mr Lovell: In terms of helping
them back into work?
Q139 Chairman: Yes.
Mr Lovell: I think that is where
our work on financial inclusion began, in that in many cases one
of the barriers that some of the people that we work with face
is access to effective information, advice and guidance in setting
up a bank account. I think for many years we have delivered services
outside the mainstream financial inclusion agenda; so we have
helped people set up bank accounts simply as part of what we do.
If it was a barrier to helping someone into work we did it as