Blog: Talk Money Week 2018: Breaking the debt taboo is a long-term challenge
12 November 2018
Colleen Peel is Head of Marketing at the Credit Services Association, the UK trade body which represents over 300-member companies active in the debt collection and debt purchase sector.
For the past two years, the Money Advice Service has run Financial Capability Week in November to raise awareness amongst the public and bringing together the various sectors involved in personal finances to tackle money issues. A key part of this has been about understanding how we can improve people’s financial capability by encouraging them to seek the right help at the right time. However, it has become clear that the biggest challenge is breaking down cultural barriers to talking about money in the first place. All the financial education and industry collaboration in the world can’t address an ingrained unwillingness to discuss money issues or a long-standing propensity to ignore or hide money problems. Despite years of research and campaigning to demonstrate the benefits of seeking help, there is still a big gap.
This year, the week has been aptly renamed Talk Money Week (12-16 November 2018) with the focus firmly on this important issue.
For our members, getting people to talk and communicate has always been their core business. They try to find a mutually beneficial resolution for a customer where a creditor has failed to make that contact in the first place. Sorting out an outstanding balance that could affect a credit rating, and putting money back into the economy is for everyone’s benefit. And if the customer is unable to pay or it transpires they shouldn’t have to pay for another reason, establishing and resolving this is key. We know that when small debts are not resolved, they tend to escalate into bigger financial problems over time.
However, of all the issues around personal finances, anything labelled as ‘debt’ is still taboo, even when it is easily resolvable. We are also still seeing circumstances where people are encouraging customers to ignore contact from debt collection agencies in a bid to make the problem ‘go away’. This advice usually comes from unsolicited sources on online forums and unfortunately this advice doesn’t help and can result in things escalating in a way that is of detriment to the customer.
We have also been working hard to educate consumers and stakeholders on what our role is and why working with our members to address debts is so important and beneficial to financial wellbeing. It was a topic that we discussed in-depth during the morning panel session at this year’s UK Credit & Collections Conference, our annual flagship event which brings together those from across the credit, debt and money advice sectors to engage, network and try to create real change. You can watch the highlights here.
We also have a selection of relevant blogs we’ve published over the past couple of years that we want to highlight again during Talk Money Week 2018 as a reminder of what work is being done and what still needs to be done to get over the difficult hurdles of getting people to open up about their debts and resolve them as quickly as possible:
- How debt collection agencies can help with problem debt
- Our new Code of Practice and how it addresses customer engagement
- Influencing policy for customer benefit
- How fintech can support people with mental health problems
- Working collaboratively with debt advice agencies
- One small step consumers can take to avoid unknown debts
- Financial Capability and young people
- Moving beyond the financial wellness of households
- Looking after customer wellbeing
We will be attending the Talk Money Conference this week and we look forward to discussing the current hot topics on the agenda with other industry stakeholders in the hope that we can all work together to get people to #TalkMoney.
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