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
This week sees launch of Taking Control – a new joint campaign for further bailiff reform from the Money Advice Trust and our friends at AdviceUK, Christians Against Poverty, Citizens Advice, StepChange Debt Charity, The Children’s Society and Z2K.
After an early stint on the Today programme – part of a welcome splash in the media including coverage on BBC News and in several national newspapers – I was pleased to help launch the Taking Control campaign at an event in the House of Commons yesterday afternoon, kindly hosted by Julian Knight MP.
This is the first time in my memory that these seven charities have worked together in such a co-ordinated way on a public policy issue. All seven organisations see the impact that bailiff action continues to have on our clients, week in, week out – and I am delighted that we have been able to come together to call for the fundamental reform that people in debt need. Read more
In a guest blog post for Thoughts at the Trust, Joseph Surtees, Senior Public Policy Advocate at StepChange Debt Charity, talks about the campaigning work they have been doing on low-income savings.
As readers of the blog will know, at StepChange Debt Charity we help families struggling with problem debt. Last year 600,000 people turned to us for free advice and solutions to their financial worries.
Alongside budgeting advice, we offer support on issues such as insolvency, benefits eligibility, affordable repayment plans and debt relief. Our dedicated vulnerable consumer team is there to offer a little extra help to those who need it.
Today, the number of people in severe problem debt stands at 2.6 million. There are many things government and creditors can do to reduce this number but helping families build savings could be a key response to the crisis. Having £1,000 saved halves the chances a family will fall into debt.
As the roll-out of the new Standard Financial Statement begins, the Trust’s Head of Learning and Development, Lyndsey Humphries, gives an overview of the Trust’s new e-learning designed to help debt advisers and creditors make a smooth transition.
A few months ago we were pleased to host a guest blog post from Sheila Wheeler, the Money Advice Service’s Director for UK Debt Advice, which focussed on their plans for the Standard Financial Statement (SFS). In recent months we have been working closely with the Money Advice Service to support the rollout of the SFS, which is officially launched today. Read more
In recent years, the Trust has reported significant increases in the number of people falling behind with utilities and other household bills. In a guest blog, Andrew White, Senior Policy Manager at the Consumer Council for Water, outlines some of the ways in which the water sector is responding to the challenges of affordability.
Whilst fuel poverty has continued to grab many headlines, a quiet revolution has been taking place in the water sector. Over the last few years the Consumer Council for Water has been working with water companies to ensure that more help is available than ever before for the 1 in 8 customers who tell us that their water and sewerage bill is not affordable.
The Trust’s Head of Learning and Development, Lyndsey Humphries, explains how a new Wiseradviser course is being launched to help advisers deal with a growing problem for money and debt advice clients across the UK…
With the first month of 2017 drawing to a close, National Debtline has already experienced its busiest January in years – and amidst uncertain economic times, advisers in agencies across the UK will be expecting further increases in demand in the coming months and years.
One feature of this demand is the growing number of clients who present at advice agencies whose income simply does not match their essential expenditure.
This is part of a prolonged shift in the nature of debt problems in the UK since the financial crisis – with proportionally fewer people getting into difficulty with what you might call ‘traditional’ credit products like credit cards and loans, and increased numbers falling into arrears on everyday household bills.
In a guest post for the Trust’s blog, FCA CEO Andrew Bailey reflects on his recent visit to National Debtline and Business Debtline in Birmingham, and expands on the regulator’s current call for input on high cost credit.
As CEO of the UK’s financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, I am very conscious that the decisions we make have far reaching implications and consequences for real people. I believe that it is important for me, and my colleagues, to understand what the impact of our work is on the people who use financial services – which is pretty much everyone in the UK.
I recently spent an afternoon meeting staff at the Money Advice Trust. I listened to calls on National Debtline and Business Debtline and met with a number of front line advisers to understand the issues that they are currently dealing with. I would make a number of observations about my visit. I was struck by the dedication and focus that everyone working for Money Advice Trust brought to their work. There was a feeling from everyone I met that they were making a real difference. I listened in to several calls, each unique, and was extremely impressed by the breadth and depth of knowledge that advisers needed in order to deal with the calls. I spent some time discussing debt issues with a number of the advisers after listening in to calls and gained valuable insights into the types of cases that they dealt with on a daily basis. Read more
Last week the Trust launched our #FeelsLikeChristmas campaign, aiming to highlight the real difference that free debt advice can make at what we know can be a challenging time of year financially for many households.
The campaign includes a #FeelsLikeChristmas video with National Debtline clients sharing their experiences of getting free debt advice – and you can hear the very real relief in their voices.
Money worries can have a huge impact on your life at any time – but our research found they are putting Christmas at risk for up to five million people, showing what an extremely difficult time of year this can be. This is also, of course, a busy time of year – and it is easy to see why many people don’t want to deal with financial problems in December.
Earlier this year the Money Advice Trust launched Borrowed Years, our new campaign to raise awareness of free debt advice amongst 18 to 24 year olds – a group that we know is under-represented amongst the people that contact National Debtline and other agencies for advice.
So far the campaign has generated more than 160 items of media coverage, and its launch led to the busiest day to the National Debtline website in 2016 so far, including visits to our tips for 18 to 24 year olds.
In our first spotlight in August, we looked at young people’s experiences of credit, debt and borrowing – finding that 37% of 18 to 24 year olds are already in debt, while around half are regularly worrying about their personal finances. Our second spotlight focused on borrowing from family and friends and the vital ‘safety net’ that this provides for many under 25s.
Today we launch our third and final spotlight, looking at this age group’s experience with mobile phones – a near-necessity for all, and unfortunately, a source of financial difficulty for some.