A new research project has launched looking at how the debt advice sector supports people in vulnerable situations. Conducted by University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) in partnership with the Money Advice Trust and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute and grant funded by the Money Advice Service, the research involves a large-scale survey of UK debt advisers’ experiences with vulnerability and advice.
Central to the research is the gathering of first-hand experiences of frontline debt advisers, who are often working with people with complex needs such as serious illness, or wider life events like substance addictions or gambling problems.
Working with the advice sector and other experts, findings from the survey will inform the development of new guidance and practical tools to help frontline debt advisers to further support their clients.
Currently, very little evidence exists about the experiences, views and working practices of frontline debt advisers when working with people in vulnerable situations. The study aims to collect new data to better understand the scale and nature of the challenges they face and to help target support.
Debt advice organisations from across the sector have already committed to participate in the research. PFRC, the Money Advice trust and Money and Mental Health are encouraging all debt advisers to get involved in the survey to share their experiences.
Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust said “We are pleased to be working with the Personal Finance Research Centre and Money and Mental Health on this important research. As all advisers know only too well financial difficulty and vulnerability are often closely linked. Despite this being a key part of advisers’ work on the frontline, there is currently a lack of evidence of the barriers and challenges they face. Through this research we aim to capture the current experiences of debt advisers’ working with people in vulnerable situations so that we can develop practical tools that both supports advisers and improves outcomes for the people they help.”
Sharon Collard, director of the Personal Finance Research Centre at the University of Bristol said “Every day, across the advice sector, advisers work with clients to deal with their debt problems and try to get their finances back on an even keel. There is currently no published information about the extent to which those clients are in particularly vulnerable situations or what that means for advisers and their organisations. With the help of the advice sector, this survey aims to fill that gap. We know that advisers work under a lot of pressure, so we’ve designed the survey to take about 15 minutes to complete.”
Simon Crine, director of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said “Debt advisers do a crucial job, helping tens of thousands of people every year. But it’s not easy – particularly as many clients will be dealing with multiple complex problems like mental health issues, bereavement or housing difficulties as well as their debts. We want to know more about what it’s like for advisers on the frontline, what would make their jobs easier, and how we can help to improve outcomes for their clients.”