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					The CFS – a guide for creditors

1. What is the CFS?
The CFS is a standardised way for money advisers to communicate with
creditors. 1 Since the first CFS was published in November 2002 it has
undergone considerable change and improvement. The CFS working party is
made up of a cross section of creditors, government departments and advice
organisations. It has sought opinions from money advisers and has involved
them in testing and evaluation of prototype versions of the CFS.

The latest version of the CFS is designed to be as user-friendly as possible.
In response to adviser feedback, it now incorporates:

    •    a ‘child multiplier’; so that trigger figure amounts increase depending
         upon the number of children in the household;

    •    an acknowledgement that child-related outgoings increase as children
         get older - the trigger figures now incorporate two age bands with
         different expenditure allocations;

    •    a more streamlined list of expenditure headings;

    •    a specific car expenditure allowance under the travel trigger figure; and

    •    an updated, user-friendly format.




2. What is the history of the CFS?
The first CFS was published by the British Bankers' Association (BBA) and
MAT in November 2002. In April 2004, the Finance and Leasing Association
(FLA) became the third sponsor. Since then, use of the CFS has spread, and
as we have improved and refined the initial product, new supporters from the
creditor sector (including both credit providers and others such as some utility
companies), government departments and the money advice sector have
come on board. Today the CFS is widely used right across the sector.




1We use the term ‘creditors’ in the widest sense to include any organisation to which a person might owe money.
This includes banks, finance houses, utility companies and so on.
3. What are the benefits of the CFS?
The key principle of the CFS is the importance of standardising the way that
money advisers and creditors communicate with each other about repayment
offers.

The following points summarise the areas on which agreement was reached
between creditors and money advisers:



   •   A standard budgeting format for all money advice organisations.

   •   A set of pre-agreed levels – known as trigger figures - for certain
       areas of discretionary expenditure.

   •   A commitment from supporting creditors to CFS principles so that
       offers made by independent money advisers will be accepted as long
       as expenditure is within the trigger figures and the guidelines have
       been followed.

   •   An understanding that if trigger figures have been exceeded, an
       explanation of the reasons for this should be provided by advisers for
       creditors to consider.

   •   A streamlined process so that repayment offers can be dealt with more
       quickly.

   •   A partnership approach to avoid unnecessary disputes between money
       advisers and creditors.




4. What are the trigger figures?
The trigger figures represent pre-agreed levels for certain areas of
discretionary expenditure. The trigger figures help creditors and money
advisers to identify levels of monthly expenditure which, unless exceeded, will
not require comment or explanation. This means that if a financial statement
includes items of expenditure that are either at or below the level of the
appropriate trigger figure, money advisers can expect that their payment offer
should be accepted.

There are trigger figures for telephone, travel, housekeeping and ‘other’
costs. Categories of fixed expenditure such as rent and mortgage payments
do not have their own trigger figure because what people spend on these
items varies widely from household to household. Also it is rarely possible to
have any real control over these expenditure levels.
The CFS is the result of genuine and effective partnership working between
creditors and the money advice sector. Due to the level of trust that now
exists, creditors can be confident that a payment offer produced using the
CFS is the result of a transparent process and in return, money advisers can
expect a consistent response from CFS sponsors and supporters.

To protect the integrity of the CFS, the trigger figures cannot be made publicly
available. Money advisers can gain access to the trigger figures either
through the budgeting or case management software used by their
organisation, or via a licensing agreement with the MAT.




5. What is money advice?
Money advisers work for organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureaux,
adviceUK members, National Debtline, local authorities and other agencies.
All these organisations provide free advice and subscribe to common
principles including: confidentiality and independence. They also aim to be
non-judgmental and non-discriminatory. Wiseradviser at the Money Advice
Trust (MAT) is responsible for developing the skills of money advisers.


Money advisers work with people in financial difficulties and help them to
arrive at sustainable solutions to their debt problems. This will include
establishing whether or not there are any assets that could be used to help to
pay off debts. If you are unfamiliar with what money advice means, you can
to download a copy of MAT’s briefing ‘The case for money advice’ from the
MAT website.




6. How does the CFS benefit creditors?
When you receive a financial statement that has been produced using the
CFS, you can be confident that it has been prepared using proven money
advice principles. This means that the adviser has worked in a systematic
way with their client to arrive at a sustainable repayment proposal. See What
is money advice? (above) for an outline of how money advice organisations
work.




7. How will I know that a financial statement has been
prepared using the CFS?
Some advice organisations have been authorised to incorporate the CFS into
their own budgeting or case management software packages; including
CASE, PG Debt, WROSeS, advicepro, Liquid Money Advice and MACS.
Others use the CFS Excel spreadsheet, which is available to download from
the MAT website. You should be able to recognise a genuine CFS because it
will show the logo of the three sponsors, MAT, the BBA and the FLA. Also,
licensed users should enter their licence number on the CFS summary
financial statement. This will show that they have accepted the licence
agreement and means they are required to complete the CFS in accordance
with the guidelines.
8. Can any creditor use the CFS?
Creditors do not have to be members of the BBA or the FLA to use the CFS.
We ask creditors who are new to the CFS to make a commitment to work with
money advisers using CFS budget sheets and to follow the guidelines
regarding the trigger figures.




9. Can debtors see the trigger figures?
There is strict control over who can access the trigger figures. These are only
available to money advisers via a licensing agreement. Organisations signing
up to the licence are authorised to use the CFS by giving an undertaking to
protect the integrity of the trigger figures and use the CFS only in line with the
forms and guidelines issued. This means that they agree not share the trigger
figures with their clients.




10. How were the trigger figures arrived at?
Research from the Government’s Family Expenditure Survey was used to
inform the level set for the trigger figures. The Family Expenditure Survey is
based on a random sample of lower-income UK households and is produced
by the Office for National Statistics.

We are confident that the changes that have been made to the trigger figures
make the CFS a much more realistic budgeting tool; responsive to the needs
of families of various sizes. Trigger figure amounts will be reviewed on a
regular basis.




11. What is the future for the CFS?
The sponsors of the CFS are committed to ensuring that its use continues to
grow and that the CFS is embraced by all organisations involved in preparing
household budgets. To this end, the CFS will remain dynamic and responsive
to the changing financial environment.


We are happy to report that the following developments are under way.
   •   The central concept, that a single format for financial statements will
       benefit both debtors and creditors, is gaining ever-wider acceptance in
       a range of environments.

   •   In the future, we envisage that the CFS will be used wherever there is
       a need for debt advice and the preparation of offers of debt repayment.
       We would not want to exclude the use of the CFS by commercial
       providers of money advice, providing they fully observe the CFS
       guidelines.

   •   The new Standard Consumer IVA Protocol includes a commitment to
       encouraging the use of the CFS. Also a number of Government
       departments are supporters, and we are hopeful that forthcoming
       statutory debt remedy initiatives such as the new debt relief orders
       and the revised administration orders are likely to include the CFS as
       an integral part of the application process when they are introduced.

   •   There are emerging plans to adopt key aspects of the structure of the
       CFS into the work of assisted self-help debt organisations such as
       National Debtline.

   •   Enhancing the CFS is a work in progress, and the current version will
       be reviewed regularly.




12. We welcome your feedback
Please complete our feedback form which can be accessed from the MAT
website. The CFS working party will continue to review and refine the CFS.
We value all feedback, both positive and negative and would like you to:
   • let us know what you think of the CFS;
   • highlight problems when you encounter them; and
   • suggest further improvements.

				
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