The increase in funding is a big part of that, of course, but that alone won’t meet the growing demand. We also have to work collectively as a sector, be more innovative, which includes looking at how we use technology both in how and when people engage with debt advice and in how we manage case work and link clients to other services they need.
We have heard loud and clear that debt advisers want to be part of the process for defining how all of this will work. So, as well as working with the lead organisations we directly fund and others, we will make sure that we talk to and hear the views of front-line debt advisers and their clients to inform how we can maximise the impact of our funding, how we can reach more people and what local provision looks like longer-term. This had already been part of the co-design phase of debt advice commissioning, but we will broaden this out as we define what happens next.
We have a duty, in everything we do, to consider the needs of people in vulnerable circumstances. For some people, including those with complex needs, it will be through locally provided services in their towns and communities. For many others, it could be a combination of different channels at different points in their journey out of debt. What’s important is making sure that people can access the services they need that will drive positive outcomes for them. Face to face advice delivered in people’s communities is an important component of this within a system where people can select the channel which best suits their needs.
Debt advisers have told us that the last few years have hit their own wellbeing hard, so we’ve made supporting wellbeing a core part of the commissioning process. This includes moving to a system that enables advisers to spend the time they need with clients and to take a break between appointments, especially the challenging ones. We’ve also asked bidders to include a strong plan for adviser wellbeing in their submissions, so that their approaches are tailored to the needs of their debt advisers and specific delivery models, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.