Yesterday saw the launch of Vulnerability: a guide for lending; an important new report aiming to help firms better identify and support customers with mental capacity limitations during credit applications. The report is produced by the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre and funded by the Finance & Leasing Association and UK Cards Association. It is supported by the Trust and key trade bodies for financial services – FLA, BBA, CML, CSA, BSA, UK Cards Association.
Mental capacity limitations can result in customers having significant problems with understanding, remembering, and evaluating information about credit products they are applying for, as well as communicating a decision about this.
Where not identified, these can result in detriment including borrowing, lending and contracts that results in ‘later downstream’ financial difficulty and problem debt. We see the implications of this every day at National Debtline, and are keen to work closely with financial services and other sectors such as telecoms (e.g. when signing customers up for mobile phone and other telecoms contracts) and motor finance (e.g. when entering car leasing agreements) to improve early identification and prevent the build-up of debt.
The Trust’s director of external affairs Jane Tully blogs about the Trust’s Living Wage Friendly Funder announcement.
Through our work at National Debtline, we recognise the role that fair pay plays in enabling people to balance their finances and manage their debts. The Living Wage scheme has played a significant role in addressing low pay across the UK and is backed up by calculations that reflect the real cost of living – which is all the more important at a time of economic uncertainty and rising inflation.
We are therefore pleased to announce that we have become a Living Wage Friendly Funder, accredited by the Living Wage Foundation – building on the previous accreditation we gained in 2015 as a Living Wage Employer.
This week the Trust launched a revamped version of our National Debtline website, here Rosie Thompson, Head of Digital Advice Services, explains some of the changes.
Since the National Debtline website was launched in 2014, we’ve come a long way and so has technology. In the first quarter of 2017 the site received 58% more visits from mobiles compared to last year, showing that people are comfortable accessing debt information and advice on the move. Stats from Ipsos Tech Tracker in the last quarter of 2016 also showed that smartphone ownership in the UK is now at 74%, with the top three activities being; emails (69%), social media (54%) and browsing websites (48%).
We have created a mobile ‘burger’ menu and search for mobile devices, as well as further optimising the site for mobile. This means for the first time mobile visitors can navigate around the site and experience lots of our pages adjusting automatically to their screen size.
Sharing the learning from our 2016/17 Innovation Grants Projects – the Trust’s Insight and Innovation Grants Officer Timon Scheven blogs about our Innovation Grants programme and the four projects we have supported over 2016/17.
One of the less known, but hugely valuable, areas of the Trust’s work is its Innovation Grants Programme. Since 2010, the Trust has funded over 45 local projects across the UK that aim to test out innovative approaches to money and debt advice.
Having visited all four projects from the 2016/17 programme, as they come to a close, I am delighted to share some of the learning that has emerged.
In addition to the benefits that projects have brought directly to the individuals and communities they work with, the debt advice sector can benefit more broadly from understanding the learning from their work. It is with this in mind that I am delighted to share some of the findings.
Figures that came out earlier this week from the Registry Trust show a sharp increase in County Court Judgments (CCJs) against companies in England and Wales in the first quarter of the year, rising to over 29,000 – a 36% increase compared to the first quarter of 2016. While their average value fell by 24% to £2,712, overall the total value of business CCJs rose by 4% to £81m.
A CCJ is often taken by a creditor when a business falls behinds on payments owed to them and an arrangement to repay what is owed can’t be worked out.
At Business Debtline, we are concerned over this spike, which bucks previous trends that showed a decline in CCJs. This year we’ve seen an increased demand for our services, with calls to our helpline up as businesses feel a squeeze. In an uncertain business environment, our advisers see both sides of the financial challenge facing small companies and the self-employed – with some calling us because they are falling behind on payments themselves, and others as they are struggling due to late payments owed to them.
The Trust’s learning manager Chloe Willis blogs about Wiseradviser’s new resource to help debt advisers supporting clients in vulnerable circumstances.
We are always exploring ways that new technology can support us in our work at the Trust, and years of experience tells us that sometimes the simplest things can be the most effective in helping people in need of advice. This is true for those who deliver it too.
With that in mind, we’re pleased that Wiseradviser is today launching a new resource to support debt advisers in their work with vulnerable people. Two sets of visually-striking cards that bring together useful phrases, tips and behaviours, demonstrated by clear examples, will support advisers to identify, and respond to, vulnerability during advice sessions.
The Trust’s director of external affairs Jane Tully blogs about the Trust’s Innovation Grants programme and the three new projects that will be supported over 2017/18.
Alongside the work that the Trust does to support people and small businesses to deal with their debts through National Debtline, Business Debtline and Wiseradviser, we are also proud of another, smaller, branch of our work – the Innovation Grants Programme.
Now in its sixth year, the programme has already supported 29 grassroots projects across the UK to deliver money and debt advice, often in less conventional ways and serving groups that can sometimes be harder to reach through traditional advice channels alone.
In a guest blog post for Thoughts at the Trust, Nic Murray, Research Officer at the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, talks about mental health, financial capability, and their new online community.
Mental health is hard to talk about, but we’re getting better. From the advice sector proactively asking clients about their mental health, to creditors understanding how a financial crisis increases suicide risk and what to say in these circumstances, conversations about mental health are becoming more common. At the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute we aim to harness the combined power of these millions of individual conversations – using them to inform a body of research about the links between money and mental health problems, and what can be done about them.
For nearly a year, the House of Lords Financial Exclusion Committee has been taking evidence from charities, industry representatives, regulators and Ministers on this important topic. The resulting report, published at the weekend, is an impressive body of work – and provides the call-to-arms in Westminster that this crucial agenda needs.
With more than 1.7 million people still ‘unbanked’, 40 percent of the working age population having less than £100 in savings, and those on the lowest incomes continuing to pay a significant poverty premium, financial exclusion in the UK is a problem of significant scale.
Last July, I was pleased to be invited to be among the first witnesses to appear before the Financial Exclusion Committee, chaired by Baroness Tyler of Enfield. Here at the Trust we have been following its work closely since (read our thoughts in full in our written evidence here), and there is much in the report to welcome.
The Trust’s chief executive Joanna Elson blogs on the evolving vulnerability debate and our new e-learning on supporting customers with a serious illness.
In recent years the Trust has increasingly focused on the issue of vulnerability, working with a growing number of creditors to help them to better support customers in vulnerable circumstances.
The British Bankers’ Association’s Financial Services Vulnerability Taskforce, which I was pleased to serve as Chair, made a significant contribution towards focusing the financial services industry on this important agenda, building on and amplifying the FCA’s Occasional Paper on the subject.
I am pleased to say that demand for the Trust’s training for collections and other creditor staff on how to support customers in vulnerable circumstances has never been higher, and we are seeing positive signs of a growing appetite for change in other sectors – and utilities in particular.
This debate is again being moved forward today, with the launch of Vulnerability: a guide for debt collection – an important new contribution from Chris Fitch and Colin Trend for the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre. Supported by the Finance & Leasing Association and UK Cards Association, the guide is an evolution of the widely-used ’12 steps’ guide first published by the Money Advice Trust and Royal College of Psychiatrists – and throws a welcome spotlight on a broader range of vulnerable circumstances that can affect people. Read more