In October, UKAR’s Debt Advice strategy team attended and sponsored the AdviceUK conference in Birmingham. Being involved in such events is a key part of the ongoing programme to support the debt advice industry and showcase the positive ways UKAR are helping the customers of NRAM, Bradford & Bingley and Mortgage express.
Here the attendees report back from what proved to be a popular and insightful event.
Finding ways to maintain and deliver high quality services, in the face of tightening budgets and increased demand, was one of the defining themes at this year’s AdviceUK conference. More than 120 advisors and providers came to together to enjoy debates, talks and workshops at the event held in Birmingham in October.
The day began with introductions from AdviceUK CEO, Steve Johnson and broadcaster and conference chair, Liz Barclay. Steve explained that the event would focus on the heightened entrepreneurial challenges facing advice providers – against a backdrop of rising service expectations and a loss of sector funding – while Liz acknowledged that ‘Not Business as Usual’ had become ‘Business as Usual’ as bidding for contracts and delivering more for less became the norm.
Keynote speaker David McAuley, Chief Executive at the Trussell Trust, offered an enlightening speech – providing an overview of his own organisation’s workand learnings for the sector going forward. As he explained, Trussell Trust centres provided more than just food and short-term solutions, offering advice in areas including welfare, benefits, finance, housing, mental health and he encouraged partnership working in the sector to help charities to provide a better service in future.
A well-attended workshop, led by David Hawkes, AdviceUK’s National Money Advice Co-ordinator, picked up the theme of long and short-term support and discussed the topic: Debt Advice: Temporary Solution or Life Changer. The session analysed the changing debt advice landscape, including the pressure on household finances, job security and a significant shift to self-employment and the evolving debt profile of clients.
As David explained, whereas traditionally people mainly struggled with consumer credit debt (credit cards/unsecured debt) priority debts, such as council tax, utilities and rent were becoming more of an issue – which often presents a more complex set of problems. Delegates were asked to consider the effectiveness of traditional debt advice and business models, especially in light of the recent FCA review into long-running Debt Management plans and new regulatory requirements and the importance of partnership working.
“Funding, the holistic approach, standardisation of advice, channel shift and research into the long-term results of advice were also debated in what proved to be an engaging, productive workshop for everyone involved.”
Regina Martin, Online Services Officer at Business Debtline, who attended the workshop told us:
“I have attended a few AdviceUK conferences and it has always been a positive experience. This year’s was by far the best one for me. It was wonderful to see so many of us passionate about helping those in need. The debt advice workshop really fired up some debate and whilst we didn’t always reach agreement it was great to see that we all felt that working together was the best way to help people in debt crisis.”
The day ended with a fun and inspiring Into the Dragons’ Lair event. Candidates were asked to present their ideas to an expert panel – made up of Lee Usher, Debt Advice Strategy Manager at UKAR, Hannah Maundrell, Editor-in-Chief at Money.co.uk , Jacqui Kennedy, Acting Strategic Director (Place Directorate) at Birmingham City Council and Chris Landsell, Sales and Marketing Director at ACM solutions – for the chance to win consultancy and non-financial support from the panel.
All three candidates were successful in gaining help and support. One of the pitches, Welsh community group, Pennysmart CIC, presented plans for a branded bus designed to deliver advice to clients in remote areas and won backing by all four ‘dragons’.
The Debt Counsellors Charitable Trust, who suggested a disbursement mechanism for debt clients, and the Migrants Resource Centre, who talked through financial modelling for a sustainable small enterprise unit, both gained the support of two dragons.
Find out more about the event at: http://www.adviceuk.org.uk/adviceuk-annual-conference-2015/.