Supporting innovation in money advice

IG map imageSharing 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 29 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.

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Increasing County Court Judgments (CCJs): a Business Debtline perspective

shutterstock_158288861Figures 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.

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Tools for debt advisers who are supporting people in vulnerable circumstances

Empower 1024 512The 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.

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Finding new and innovative ways to get debt advice to harder-to-reach groups

Innovation Grants image 300 206The 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.

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Mental health and money – a new online community

Nic Murray MMHPIIn 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.

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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


The time has come for fundamental #bailiffreform

Event photoThis 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


Helping families on low incomes to save

Joseph Surtees StepChangeIn 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.

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Supporting organisations with the Standard Financial Statement roll-out

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