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Guy Opperman: Facts essential in financial inclusion

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Guy Opperman on his recent visit to Aandor Tech, Belfast

Guy Opperman on his recent visit to Aandor Tech, Belfast

Guy Opperman on his recent visit to Aandor Tech, Belfast

Northern Ireland is a symbol of industry and innovation and I was struck by the endeavour of the people I met on my visit to Belfast last month.

During this visit I had the pleasure of meeting with the Consumer Council, and a range of financial service providers, to discuss with them the issues that people in Northern Ireland face when it comes to accessing the help and financial services they need.

I hope that in doing so, the conversation about financial inclusion and capability - and what is needed to support the people there - has been opened up.

Financial inclusion is about having access to essential financial services like bank accounts, debit and credit cards.

It's vital that our financial services industry is accessible to everyone who needs it, regardless of background or circumstance, if we want to build an economy that works for everyone.

And it's an issue that's very close to my heart, which is why I am working with the Treasury, and jointly chairing the Financial Inclusion Policy Forum.

The forum brings together industry leaders in finance, consumer groups, and the regulators to ensure that individuals - regardless of their background or income - have access to useful and affordable financial products and services.

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Following the forum's first meeting on March 19 we have set up a sub-group which is currently looking at access to affordable credit and driving forward the work in this area, which will be a key focus for the next forum meeting in October.

While the government is strongly committed to tackling financial exclusion, it also believes financial education is key in helping people increase their financial capability and build up their financial resilience.

Work to improve financial capability is currently led by the Money Advice Service (MAS), which will soon be merged into the Single Financial Guidance Body.

This will build on MAS' good work and help people to make more sense of their finances in these increasingly complex times.

Currently the Money Advice Service, the Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise help people get free and impartial debt advice as well as information and guidance on issues relating to finances and their pensions. These services help hundreds of thousands of people every year.

By bringing these services under one roof, the process of getting the help you need with your pressing money questions will be easier, meaning that people will get the help and guidance they need, when they need it.

  • Guy Opperman is Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion

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