‘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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Guest blog post from the Money Advice Service: Mental Health Awareness Week

Colin KinlochHosted by the Mental Health Foundation, this week marks Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20 May). In this guest blog post, Colin Kinloch, Debt Advice Strategy & Innovation Manager at the Money Advice Service (MAS), discusses the importance of developing holistic support services for those struggling with both financial difficulties and their mental wellbeing and calls for greater partnership working across a range of sectors.

Problem debt can impact many aspects of a person’s life, not just their financial situation. It can contribute to feelings of stress or poor mental wellbeing by putting pressures on relationships, family life and jeopardising the roof over your head. Often, those struggling with debt will lay awake at night, struggling with feelings of anxiety and withdrawal.

Research shows that those with mental health issues are three times as likely to be in problem debt, more likely to be living on a low income and have lower levels of financial capability (according to The impact of problem debt on health – a literature review by Equity Action).

Given this sensitive link – what role can the debt advice sector debt play in providing support to clients struggling with both?

Value of advice

It is firstly important to note the significant role that debt advice can play in helping to improve mental wellbeing for some over-indebted people.

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Mental health and debt: supporting the advice sector and creditors

Jane headshotIn Mental Health Awareness Week, Jane Tully, director of external affairs at the Money Advice outlines the work going on to help the advice sector and creditors support people with debt and mental health problems.

We know that mental problems and debt often go hand-in-hand. Findings from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute suggest that one in four people with mental health problems has problem debt and that often someone’s financial situation makes their mental health worse. They estimate that people with severe mental illness are 2.3 times as likely to experience money or debt problems.

These are just a number of reasons of why we are supporting Mental Health Awareness Week, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation and running all of this week.

At National Debtline and Business Debtline we are all too aware of the impact of debt on people’s mental health and vice-versa. Along with taking out too much credit, job loss and relationship breakdown, mental health problems are one of the most common reasons for being in debt. Nearly one in seven of the people helped by National Debtline say that mental health problems are the reason for their financial difficulty – and we regularly hear from people who tell us how being in debt has affected their mental health.

I had a breakdown due to the stress of not being able to pay my debts and the harassment from the people that I owed money to.
National Debtline caller

And we know the benefits seeking advice can bring

When I phoned to speak to someone I was in despair. I was quickly reassured by your team member that there was a way out and life was worth going on – they made me feel like I mattered.
National Debtline caller

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Learning disability and debt – guest blog post from Disability Rights UK

Supporting clients with learning disabilities screenshotIn this guest blog post, Jason Jaspal from Disability Rights UK discusses the challenges that people with learning disabilities can experience around managing their finances, and explains why they have been working with the Money Advice Trust on a new training course for advisers.

Despite some of the difficulties of living independently, there has been a growing expectation that disabled people will do so. That includes people with learning disabilities, who make up around 1.5 million of the population in the UK.

People with learning disabilities (sometimes described as learning difficulties) can experience challenges retaining and processing information, leading to difficulties with learning, and developing skills.

Many people with mild to moderate learning disabilities can live independently with the right kind of support, including support to manage their finances and budgeting.

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Could the FCA have a role in the regulation of enforcement agencies?

shutterstock_254574685The Trust’s policy manager Meg van Rooyen explores one possibility for future regulation of enforcement agencies, as the advice sector’s Taking Control campaign for bailiff reform continues.

Reforms that came into effect in 2014 have seen some improvements for how enforcement agents (the new name for bailiffs) collect debts. The rules around entry have been clarified, the range of exempt goods widened, there is a clearer fee structure, the language has been modernised, with better signposting to sources of free debt advice.

However, as the sector’s Taking Control report showed, the reforms have not achieved their key objective: changing the behaviour of bailiffs and bailiff firms when dealing with vulnerable people in debt. We are pleased that the Ministry of Justice has listened, at least, to our continued concerns in announcing a new call for evidence on the impact of bailiff action on people in debt. However, these problems go beyond just a few rogue bailiffs – it is the system that needs reform.

That’s why we believe independent regulation and a free, independent complaints mechanism is crucial to bringing this about.

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