Improving financial health for individuals and communities requires two kinds of change; user-needs led design so that services enable people’s money to work harder for them, and behaviour change by individuals themselves to take control of their own financial health, now and in the future.The Financial Health Exchange team support a wide range of organisations to understand and improve their impact.
We work with policy makers and service providers to identify the desired change and then design and deliver programmes -research, strategy design and implementation, training, and consultancy or on-going support – which help achieve the desired outcomes.
Our systemic approach means that we work hard to understand exactly why people experience any given financial health issue. We look at the pathway the individual has travelled to that point, and explore to what extent the problems have been caused by external processes the individual has had to cope with, or by their own decision-making skills around money.
Take an example we see regularly across the UK; social landlords tell us that four to six weeks into a new tenancy, they regularly see vulnerable new tenants struggling financially, either unable to furnish the new property or making unaffordable payments to lenders or rent-to-buy shops for the fridge, cooker and bed they needed to make the property habitable. At first glance, the problem seems to be a simple lack of financial capability. But when we began to map the tenant’s journey, we saw how people waiting for a home are routinely given less than 5 working day’s notice between being told they have been successful in bidding for a property and having to move in and start paying rent on an empty shell. And they have little or no savings, no access to affordable credit, and few payment options to spread the cost of large purchases. No wonder, then, that the most vulnerable new tenants are struggling. Of course, most social landlords attempt to provide some support, ranging from leaflets about the local Credit Union to staff donating their own bedding and kitchen equipment to young and vulnerable tenants to get them started. But it’s clear that there is a business need to get people paying rent as soon as possible to reduce “void times”, which undermines the social landlord’s stated goal of ensuring that the new tenant gets off to a healthy financial start.
Through our FIHCO process we are supporting social landlords around the country to understand this and other ways in which they shape the financial health of their tenants, and helping them design better processes to avoid causing unnecessary financial pressures for their service users. We help organisations understand their role – and that of their wider sector – in shaping the financial health of their users, stakeholders and the wider UK society, and we help the, redesign their work to prevent causing problems which they – and others – must then attempt to solve.
Because financial health depends both on a healthy environment and people who can make healthy choices, we work on the supply and demand side. Sometimes the answer to a financial health issue lies completely in designing a product or service that truly meets user needs. But more often than not, the best outcomes lie in mixing improvements in service design and delivery with increased user knowledge and confidence. Working together, increased financial inclusion and better financial capability are a powerful combination. We look for ways to leverage both sides of the equation for the best possible outcomes achieved in the most efficient way.