The FCA opts for the right approach to defining vulnerability

Chris Fitch cropThe Trust’s vulnerability lead Chris Fitch shares first thoughts on today’s news that the Financial Conduct Authority is retaining its existing definition of vulnerable consumers, with new guidance for firms expected next year.

This morning saw the publication of the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA’s) response to its Consumer Approach consultation – with what could be a double dose of positive news for the vulnerability agenda.

Firstly, the FCA will be retaining its existing definition of a vulnerable consumer as ‘someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care’ – and not proceeding with its new definition proposed last year which, as I have argued previously, would have been a potential step backwards for the vulnerability agenda.

I am pleased that the FCA has listened to the concerns about its proposed shift raised by the Money Advice Trust, Money & Mental Health Policy Institute, StepChange Debt Charity, Macmillan, Age UK, the Financial Inclusion Commission and others. The outcome also shows the strength of working in partnership in this space – something I hope will continue.

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Making a difference – our impact in 2017

Adam SharplesAdam Sharples, chair of the Money Advice Trust, outlines the impact of the Trust’s efforts in 2017 and reflects on some of the key areas of work.

Each year, when the team puts together the Impact Report, I am always struck by the breadth of the Trust’s work and the range of ways the charity helps people to tackle their debts.

The figures from this year’s report, Making a difference: our impact in 2017, highlight the scale of this work across all our services in what was a particularly busy year.

In 2017, our National Debtline and Business Debtline advisers helped over 220,000 people over the phone and via webchat and our websites had over 1.5 million visits – an increase of 19 percent on 2016.

We helped more individuals through National Debtline and more small business owners through Business Debtline than ever before. Through our Wiseradviser programme we helped more advisers to support their clients, whilst our growing training and consultancy work in the credit industry, helped more people in vulnerable circumstances.

In 2017 we helped twitter image

We also continued our work to improve the UK’s money and debt environment through raising the awareness of our services and the issues faced by the people we help. This included responding to 21 policy consultations from organisations including government departments, agencies and regulators and running campaigns, such as Stop The Knock, which focused on improving local council debt collection practice.

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Why are we letting companies pretend to be debt advice charities online?

The Trust’s policy manager Meg van Rooyen highlights the issue of lead generation companies masquerading as free debt advice charities and what can be done to address the problem.

It is not just Martin Lewis having a problem with fake advertising.

If you try looking for free debt advice through an online search engine like Google, you will be lucky to find National Debtline, StepChange Debt Charity or Citizens Advice at the top of your search results. There are many companies out there using paid advertisements to give the misleading impression that they offer debt advice or to masquerade as free debt advice charities.

Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission.

Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission.

“Get expert debt help today”.  “Debt line help”.

“See if you can have 86% wiped off.”

“Step to change debt management.”

“Government debt write off UK.”

Even a search for the Money Advice Service brings up an advert inviting you to “wipe out your debts today” and find out within 2 minutes if you can write off up to 90% of your debts!”

People may be more susceptible to this type of messaging, which offers a quick solution to their debt issues, but it may lead them down a debt route unsuitable for their situation. When using an online search, it is crucial that the information people receive is accurate and unbiased.

A quick search on Google suggests this is currently not the case.

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Making money easier – new resources for people with learning disabilities

Mencal Liverpool blog image May 2018Today we launch the resources created by Mencap Liverpool through their Easy Money project. The Trust’s chief executive, Joanna Elson OBE, highlights the project’s outcomes and learning for the sector.

We are delighted to have been able to partner with Mencap Liverpool through our Innovation Grants Programme funding. I had the pleasure of visiting Liverpool to see the Easy Money project in action, and was impressed with how much beneficiaries were involved in the development of the materials. The trust and relationships the staff have with their members is something they have worked hard at, which in turn helped to achieve project success.

Over the course of the year, Mencap Liverpool have produced Easy Read fact sheets that can be used as standalone resource. The fact sheets are specifically created for people with learning disabilities and/or on the autistic spectrum. Through the use of easy read images and minimal text, the materials explain financial concepts in an easy and balanced way. The fact sheets cover topics including; budgeting, opening a bank account, borrowing, benefits (Employment and Support Allowance, and Jobseeker’s Allowance), and saving on fuel and water, etc. The fact sheets can be downloaded from Wiseradviser here.

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‘It was like talking to a friend’ – resources to help debt agencies use WhatsApp as a tool for effective money advice

Evaluation summary image 350wToday we launch the resources created by Citizens Advice Manchester through their WhatsApp money / debt advice project. The Trust’s chief executive, Joanna Elson OBE, highlights the project’s outcomes and learning for the sector.

We are delighted that we were able to fund Citizens Advice Manchester through our Innovation Grants, to test WhatsApp as a digital access channel for money advice and engage indebted individuals in financial capability and debt advice.

The project has created helpful resources, including;

  • A learning document aimed at giving organisations considering adopting WhatsApp within their advice channels the key considerations prior to start-up.
  • A user manual and instructional video for frontline advisers who plan to use WhatsApp.

These resources can be accessed via Wiseradviser.

In generating these resources Citizens Advice Manchester engaged with 490 unique clients over the course of the year. 88% of clients did not need any additional support following contact on WhatsApp. Overwhelmingly, users have expressed positive feedback in terms of the ease of use and convenience of accessing advice via WhatsApp as well as the quality and overall satisfaction with the service.

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