The review looked at how firms treat customers in arrears or financial difficulty. This is of particular concern as the possibility of interest rate rises looms. The review finds that arrears management in firms has improved since the last review. However, mortgage lenders and administrators need to place greater emphasis on delivering consistently fair outcomes for customers based on their individual circumstances.
FCA is working with industry to help them improve their practices. This includes better support and empowerment of front-line staff and greater flexibility to support fair treatment of individual customers, based on their specific personal and financial circumstances. FCA also wants firms to take proactive steps to identify borrowers who could be susceptible to potential interest rate rises and have strategies to treat these customers fairly.
Read more here.
This paper by Citizens Advice summarises the changes to benefits that have already taken effect and those still to come, and looks at what companies can do to identity customers in difficulty. It outlines steps companies can take to understand their customers, to proactively work with them, forbear from taking action that may make matters worse, and refer on those who need help.
It is also important that creditors are proactive in looking out for signs of potential financial difficulty and offering support accordingly. Forbearance and breathing space from their creditors will help customers who are having to adapt to a reduced income or a change in the way that their benefits are paid to avoid reaching breaking point.
Ofcom has published a guide which offers advice to people with learning difficulties on how to get the most out of their mobile phone and on how much it could cost. It gives information on:
- the different types of mobile phone handsets available;
- the costs of mobile phone calls and ways to pay;
- free services available for disabled customers; and
- how to complain when things go wrong.
It’s available from Ofcom’s website here, and will be distributed by organisations including Mencap and the National Autistic Society.
A briefing called Ethnicity and deprivation in England was published in December 2013 by the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE) and others as part of a series The Dynamics of Diversity: evidence from the 2011 Census. It examines how likely ethnic minorities are to live in deprived neighbourhoods.
The summary is here.
Joseph Rowntree Foundation published Tackling in-work poverty by supporting dual-earning families. The report examines how working families can be helped out of poverty.
The research reviews trends in employment among couple families with children and considers policies and the wider context in four areas likely to affect their employment rate: family leave, childcare, the labour market, and the tax and benefit system. It finds:
◾The risk of poverty is much higher for children in couple families where only one parent works;
◾sole earner families account for a significant minority of poor families with children.
◾Many fathers have to work long hours, making it harder for them to get involved in family life and more difficult for mothers to work. To enable more low-income families to have both partners in work,
The report recommends allowing second earners to keep more of their wages before means-tested benefits are withdrawn; more publically-funded affordable childcare; and phasing in more generous family leave, including longer paternity leave.