UK consumers had GBP 1,459 billion of outstanding debt at November 2009 and personal borrowing represented 160 per cent of household annual pre-tax income. Research in 2008 by the Bank of England found that 11 per cent of people reported difficulty keeping up with their bills and credit commitments. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' (BIS) face-to-face debt advice project has, since April 2006, delivered help to some 270,000 people to the end of September 2009. An NAO survey found that 81 per cent of people who received the advice said it helped. In the recession, demand for support and advice has become greater than capacity. Between July 2008 and July 2009 there was a 28 per cent increase in the number of people contacting advice providers and, in some instances, there is not the capacity to cope. A quarter of advice agencies are either refusing new clients or have a waiting period of over a month. BIS' debt advice project is part of a government-wide strategy to support those struggling with debt. The strategy is complex with over 50 different projects, a number of funding streams, and diffuse responsibilities. Risks to value for money created by this complex delivery structure are not being controlled effectively by the current programme management arrangements. There needs to be better governance, performance management and evaluation. The Department should do more to evaluate how advice can be provided more efficiently and to assess the role that all debt advice providers, including the private sector, could have in meeting Government's aims for debt advice provision.
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