Lack of qualifications could hold back care advice

Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of financial advisers would like to advise people on their options for funding long-term care, but only a third of advisers are currently qualified to give specialised care advice, according to the Association of Professional Financial Advisers.

Research carried out by NMG Consulting, among 746 advisers between August and November, showed appetite for engaging with clients on long-term care issues has remained strong over the last year.

The 65 per cent figure relates to advisers who said they would like to be part of a list to which local authorities make referrals for advice. In November 2013, 58 per cent of advisers said they would like to be included on such a list.

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However, the research also found that despite a willingness to provide advice on long-term care matters, at present only 31 per cent have the necessary qualifications, meaning more than half of those seeking referrals are not currently able to give specialist advice.

A further 5 per cent were in the process of obtaining them, while 24 per cent plan to qualify next year.

The Care Act gained Royal Assent on 14 May, placing greater responsibility on councils surrounding care and support services, including a new function of ensuring that people can access advice regarding their care and support.

The act was the subject of intense debate due to the government’s decision to soften wording around referrals to include any body independent of the local authority, including charities and other organisations, and not specifically regulated advisers.

In spite of lobbying from providers and national advice groups, this watered down referral demand remained unchanged apparently as a result of councils being wary of advisers due to past mis-selling scandals.

Some argue the lack of a requirement to use fully regulated advice could hamper the perceived opportunity for intermediaries.

Chris Hannant, director general of Apfa, said that the changes have the potential to revolutionise the UK care system and represent a “significant” opportunity for financial advisers.

He said: “To make the most of the opportunity and to turn their willingness into actual advice, advisers will need to obtain this qualification soon. Access to advice from a regulated firm will be vital for many people, helping them make the best choices in what can be far-reaching financial decisions on funding their long-term care.”