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Redesigning Fairer Financial Services

Published: 27 Apr 2018


On Wednesday 25th April, Toynbee Hall’s Financial Health Exchange and the Centre for Responsible Credit held a conference supported by the Learning and Work Institute and Natwest to discuss redesigning financial services and support.

In a room packed full of practitioners, policy makers, organisations and frontline service providers, a broad range of discussions took place with speakers from different financial communities on how we can make financial services fairer and more affordable. We were also joined by Michael Sheen, founder of the End High Cost Credit Alliance.

Damon Gibbons from Centre of Responsible Credit and Michael Sheen got the conference underway addressing the impact of high cost credit and the devastating consequences it can have on families and communities. They highlighted that there are three vital criteria to stop the negative impact of credit;

1. Stop poor practice among lenders
2. Support responsible finance providers to scale
3. Better support when credit isn't the right answer 

We welcome business and companies who want to get involved with the creation of greater financial support and services, but only when they have the interests of the people at heart.”

Michael Sheen, Founder of the End High Cost Credit Alliance

In the first plenary session titled, Redesigning financial support for lower income households, what does good look like? Rose Duran (Senior Advisor, Local Government Association) emphasised the need to build partnerships, implement evidence backed early intervention and that better integration of services is key to providing solutions. Anna Laycock (Executive Director, Finance Innovation Lab) spoke on the need to correct the biases present in financial service design.

Anna Laycock identifies baises present in financal service design

We see little empathy in financial services today, and that we discuss cognitive biases in our sector as though it was only consumers that have them, not people within financial services.”

Anna Laycock, Executive Director of the Finance Innovation Lab

The conference then split into different breakout sessions on different topics including alternatives to credit use and the lived experience of people on low incomes. In the latter session, Sian Williams (Director of Financial Health at Toynbee Hall) shared some of the early findings from her research project in Port Talbot. There, they are working with Tai Tarian Housing Associations residents to find out if the current systems in place are meeting their financial needs and will then co-design solutions based on their experiences and ideas. So far they have found identified some key areas where financial needs are failing to be met, the world around children, food, housing, work and travel.

In a later session, Carl Packman (Research and Good Practice Manager, Toynbee Hall) and Dr Lindsey Appleyard (Coventry University) shared some of their findings from another research project looking at the impact that the cap on high cost short term credit has had on access to credit.

Early findings suggest that the cap has reduced bad practice and people are resourceful in finding alternatives. But some still ‘go without’ or borrow from friends and family which can create relationship and mental health and wellbeing pressures.

After hearing speakers from regulators, Government and Civil Society, Michael Sheen and Sian Williams closed the conference with some final reflections and next steps, stressing the need to build infrastructure to deliver financial support and services reform and how partnerships are crucial into turning ideas into actions.

One common theme across all the various debates was the need for collaboration between financial sector, local authorities, civil society and community to share learning and drive action and most importantly, people with experiencing these financial challenges must and will be at the heart of the process and co-design at every step

To join the debate you can follow the hashtag #FinancialHealth18 to see more highlights from the conference.