Our research

Supporting debt advice clients in vulnerable situations – a new nationwide survey of advisers 

In March of 2018 we launched a new survey looking at how the debt advice sector supports clients who are in vulnerable situations. Conducted by PFRC in partnership with the Money Advice Trust and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI), the research will, for the first time, gather 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, the survey findings will inform new guidance, training and resources to support frontline advisers. These will be highly practical and realistic, because they will be grounded in the everyday experiences of frontline advisers.   

Debt advice organisations from across the sector have already committed to participate in the research and PFRC, the Money Advice Trust and MMHPI are encouraging all debt advisers to get involved in the survey to share their experiences.  

Organisations that provide debt advice can register their interest in taking part in the survey by completing this form. The research team will then get in touch to organise the survey. 

Vulnerability – guides for lending and debt collection 

In 2016 the Finance & Leasing Association (FLA) and UK Finance (then the UK Cards Association) commissioned research to help their members identify and support customers in vulnerable circumstances. The project focused not only on identifying the challenges that frontline and collections staff encounter in their day-to-day dealings with such customers, but also on developing commercially realistic interventions to address these issues. 

The project was led by Chris Fitch (PFRC Honorary Research Fellow), an expert in the field of mental health and debt from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience’s doctoral programme at Kings College, and Jamie Evans (PFRC Research Associate). 

The guides we have produced: 

  • Provide insights on the practices and challenges faced by staff when working with customers in vulnerable situations. 

  • Suggest practical and commercially realistic solutions to these challenges that frontline staff can incorporate into their daily work, which organisations can build into their wider policy and culture, and which will ultimately help identify, engage with and support customers who find themselves in a vulnerable situation. 

  • Share these solutions with the wider credit and collections sector in a clear, recognisable, and easy to implement format building upon an earlier report ‘Lending, Debt Collection and Mental Health: Twelve Steps for Treating Potentially Vulnerable Customers Fairly’. 

  • Provide a benchmark where the overall sector and individual firms currently ‘sit’ in relation to their work on vulnerability. This will allow the sector to reflect on the work they have undertaken, as well as providing a means to measure progress. 

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