In this guest post for Thoughts at the Trust, Monzo’s head of financial difficulties, Stuart McFadden, shares his thoughts on designing products and services with debt problems – and vulnerability – in mind.
Debt and mental health go hand in hand. Research shows that people with mental health problems are much more likely to experience problem debt. It’s a vicious circle with each attributing to or exacerbating the other. I’ve given advice and listened to hundreds of debt advice calls, and – it’s clear that getting the right advice can take away a huge burden. Getting the right advice is often the first step towards improving your finances, and your mental wellbeing.
The trouble is that the help and advice tends to come only after the debt problem has become a serious one. Too often the trigger to getting advice isn’t because a problem is on the horizon, but because things have come to a head. It could be because a bailiff is knocking at the door, eviction is threatened or simply because nobody will lend to you anymore, so you can’t continue to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’.
This is why it is essential that the industry designs products that help people avoid problem debt, and equips people to tackle debt problems when they do arise – and always with the needs of customers in vulnerable circumstances firmly in mind.