In December 2019, the Scottish Government published its new Debt Advice Routemap, including a commitment to a user-centred debt advice system.
As one of the first steps towards developing the evidence base to realise that aim and ensuring that client experience shapes future decision-making, Money Advice Scotland has now published a research report ‘Capturing Experience of Debt Advice‘. The foreword to the report says: “We want to ensure that evidence and experience is at the heart of the future strategy for debt advice. A relevant precedent can be found in the establishment of experience panels ahead of the devolution of social security powers. This was undertaken with the view that the best people to shape a new system are those with experience – and often negative experience – of the previous system. That same principle underpins this piece of work. The social stigma that persists around talking about debt means that this is
unlikely to be a straightforward process, but it is an essential one.”
Key findings were:
- Income is the key indicator in determining whether someone will experience problem debt and access advice. (22% of people find their level of personal debt to be unmanageable)
- Stigma is a barrier towards seeking help with debt, and advisers play a central role in alleviating this sense of shame and embarrassment. (Almost a quarter of people who did not seek advice were put off because it would
mean speaking to someone about their finances)
- People will endure considerable hardship and make significant cutbacks to essential living costs before seeking advice. (Over half of respondents would go without essential spending before even
considering to seek advice)
- There is widespread uncertainty of what to expect from the debt advice process and a lack of awareness about what an adviser can do to help. (“Asking an agency didn’t really occur to me. I am not sure an agency would have told us anything different”)
- Face-to-face remains the channel preference for the vast majority, but scope exists to harness digital at the right moments. (65% prefer to access advice face-to-face when it reaches the detailed discussion
- People who receive debt advice are positive about the experience, but we still don’t know enough about what happens after advice. (“They need to be more realistic with the budget, I couldn’t aff ord the essentials and
was borrowing money from my mother to keep to the plan”)
A second piece of research on adviser perspectives of a new workforce strategy will be published in the next couple of weeks and Money Advice Scotland is hosting a launch event for both reports on 19 March 2020 at The Lighthouse in Glasgow. The launch is an opportunity to learn more about the emerging themes coming out of this work, as well as offering the chance to feedback on the key findings. This event is open to everyone with an interest in this policy area, and especially frontline advisers who helped shape this important work. Registration is open on their website here.