Fortnightly financial 5 minutes #14 Chris Fitch
Nigel Yeates, Communications and Stakeholder Business Partner, speaks to Chris Fitch, Vulnerability Lead at the Money Advice Trust, about helping people manage their money with confidence.
You are the Vulnerability Lead for the Money Advice Trust. What is the role of the Money Advice Trust?
The Money Advice Trust is a UK-wide charity that helps people tackle their debts and manage their money with confidence.
Alongside running National Debtline and Business Debtline, which offer free independent debt advice to people worried about their finances, it also operates a consumer vulnerability programme to help essential service firms improve their practice.
To date, this programme has worked with more than 350 firms, 35,000+ staff, and a dozen different regulatory bodies.
Previously we published an article about our vulnerable customer work. What are the latest insights and guidance you can share from your role?
We regularly publish all our insights on our dedicated vulnerability training and consultancy page.
However, if I had to offer one piece of guidance it would be this. Don’t get too lost in conversations about ‘what is vulnerability?’. Instead focus on answering the question: ‘vulnerable to what?’.
This is because if you can establish what type of harm or difficulty that a person is vulnerable to, you’ll be in a much better position to help them.
It sounds obvious. But we often see firms focusing on identifying and recording the causes of vulnerability (such as a particular health condition), rather than on the impact and harm that a customer is vulnerable to.
Money Advice Trust talks about consumers managing their money with confidence. What do you mean by this?
This is all about the free, independent debt advice through National Debtline and Business Debtline that the Trust gives to people across the UK.
This is delivered through the Trust’s telephone and online advice services. In 2021, advisers provided help to over 170,000 people, and the Trust’s advice websites had 1.63 million visits.
You work closely with the UK government and the devolved administrations. What does this entail?
We use the insights we gather from our frontline advice services to urge governments and policymakers across the UK to improve the way people in, or at risk of, debt are treated and the support available to them.
Thinking about vulnerability specifically, we’ve worked with the UK Government’s Fairness Group to develop a Government Debt Management Vulnerability Toolkit. This sets out best practice for central and local government in terms of identifying and supporting vulnerable customers in their debt collection processes.
What are the organisation's top priorities for 2023?
With the high cost of living and significant financial pressure, many households are under, the Money Advice Trust’s work providing free debt advice services has arguably never been more important.
Alongside our service delivery, we’ll be continuing to campaign for better support for people in debt from government, regulators and creditors. And we’ll also continue to keep operating and improving our Consumer Vulnerability programme, including our Vulnerability Academy for firms (now in its 8th cohort).
Thanks very much Chris for that information and we wish you all the best with the Money Advice Trust’s ongoing efforts.
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The content of any discussions shouldn't be taken as an indication of future FSCS policy positions. The views expressed by guests are their own and don't reflect the views of FSCS.
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