Partnership working can boost efficiency for debt advice providers and their clients.
And a pilot scheme, pooling expertise from Citizens Advice and StepChange Debt Charity, aims to do just that – offering their clients a more seamless and supported experience to make payments easier.
Here, Anna Hall, Head of Money Advice at Citizens Advice, gives an update on the scheme and explains more about their plans for 2018 and beyond.
She says, “Like all good partnerships, this one with StepChange Debt Charity has been borne out of a desire to do things better.
We recognised that there was a gap in the services we could offer when clients reached repayment stage.
Instead of clients leaving Citizens Advice to work with StepChange in order to enter into an IVA or DMP, the pilot gives clients the ability to continue dealing with our debt advisors as the main point of contact, conducting reviews and so on, leaving StepChange to focus on providing the means of making distributed payments.
It means a much less disruptive experience and one which hopefully people will engage with for longer.
The pilot will continue to run until at least August 2018, across a network of 35 varied Citizens Advice centres – including city, urban, large and small advice centres – with the aim of supporting 8,000 people.
We first spoke to UKAR ARena in May about the plans for this pilot which went live in September 2017 and we’re now in a position to be able to provide an update.
This month (January) we’ve been able to start looking at payment distribution, an important part of the debt management process.
While still very much in the early stages, we hope to be able to gather more informed feedback, including from a creditor point of view, soon.
One thing that has been interesting already is the problems we have seen when working with clients whose best solution would be bankruptcy – but they haven’t been able to afford to become bankrupt.
Although there are funds available from, for example, utilities companies, to help them do this, these tend to run out at the end of the year.
The funds are replenished again in April so until then we have people waiting, in a kind of financial limbo.
When our pilot ends later this year, we would really like to be able to find a way of funding the scheme on a national level and we see this type of partnership working as becoming increasingly important.
In an era of limited budgets and increasing demand for services, it makes sense for agencies like Citizens Advice, StepChange Debt Charity and the Money Advice Trust to work together and share the resources they have.
We will be looking at working with external agencies in the future too – especially when it comes to referrals – so looking to partner with food banks and others.
These shared projects will undoubtedly become increasingly important as we strive to provide the best customer journeys for everyone.”