A recent survey by the Money Advice Service showed that of the 63 million people
in the UK, a staggering 8.8 million (14%) are over-indebted. That's
not people who dip into their overdraft every once in a while, or who
used their credit card this Christmas to tide themselves over until January
pay day, it's people whose financial situation has become so unsustainable
that they can no longer cope with their debts. In Manchester,
two in five people (41%) are over-indebted, making it the 3rd most
over-indebted local authority in the UK, just behind Nottingham and Hull.
more, yesterday (January 20th) was Blue Monday, the day when the Christmas
credit card bills began to start thudding on to our doormats. For
that reason, StepChange Debt Charity named this week 'Debt Awareness Week'
and so I travelled to Manchester with my colleague Zoe to help amplify
the message in one the UK's most heavily affected cities.
we organised frontline staff training with the help of organisations
such as StepChange Debt Charity and Citizens Advice, who can
help customers manage their debts more effectively, and in some cases write
it off completely. As well as helping colleagues identify some of the
early warning signs of debt, we also helped colleagues understand what
it might feel like to be over-indebted (perhaps having to choose between
eating and heating your home), and also to understand why customers
might (and too often do) wait years before admitting they need help.
then set up unmanned stalls in three of the key branches in the city centre
so that customers affected by debt could learn more about the options
available to them (and stocked them with chocolates to maximise footfall!).
also spent time with the Barclays Financial Assist team, our internal debt
management team, who proactively contact the customers showing signs of
losing control over their finances in order to help them get back on track.
the next few weeks we'll be tracking the internal and external referrals
made by those three branches to see whether or not we had any impact.
It's our belief that by raising customer and colleague awareness, we
can begin to tackle financial difficulty in Manchester, and if successful
we hope to roll out the awareness programme in other heavily affected
areas across the UK.