‘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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Examining the link between debt and relationships

In too deep - An investigation into debt and relationships FRONT COVERRelationship charity Relate have published research on the link between debt and relationships. The Trust’s chief executive, Joanna Elson OBE, examines the findings from the research and its recommendations.

We know, from what our advisers at National Debtline deal with day in and day out, the damage that problem debt can have on families and relationships. We also know that relationship breakdown can be a big cause of problem debt itself. Last year, it was the fourth most common reason people we helped gave as the cause for them being in debt – accounting for 15 percent of callers to National Debtline.

The valuable research that Relate has published today examines the link between debt and relationships and the impact both have on each other. The research draws upon a wide variety of information including surveys of people in debt, feedback from debt advisers, focus groups and national polling.

We were pleased to be able to support this work here at the Money Advice Trust. More than 200 debt advisers trained through our Wiseradviser programme were surveyed as part of the research and I was lucky enough to speak at a panel discussion on the subject during the Party Conference season.

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Vulnerability: a guide for lending

vulnerability - a guide for lending FRONT COVERYesterday 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.

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An important call-to-arms on financial exclusion from the House of Lords

shutterstock_258751613For 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.

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It’s time for an expanded focus on a broader range of vulnerable circumstances

background image plain croppedThe 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