PeopleValue, the nation’s leading supplier of voluntary benefit solutions, has partnered with Harrington Brooks, one of the UK’s leading debt solution providers, to offer financial and legal advice and support to its clients’ employees.
Users of PeopleValue’s Advantage 6 voluntary benefit solution will now be able to access debt advice and guidance from Harrington Brooks, as well as legal support from its sister companies. This includes a free 30 minute consultation for legal advice with Castle Keep Law and specialist legal advice for carers to help reclaim care costs with My Care Claim.
With 6,045 new debt problems now dealt with by the Citizens Advice Bureau every working day*, financial wellbeing is now a topic that is firmly on the agenda for many UK employers. The impact that debt problems cause can directly affect the wellbeing of employees with six in ten people in debt affected by mental health problems**. Debt issues also affect the economy too, with estimates that debt costs the UK £8.3 billion through the damages it causes to wellbeing, productivity and the welfare state***.
Additionally, often employees don’t have access to the requisite legal advice to help those facing financial difficulty, whether it be to defend against enforcement action taken by creditors or help employees recover mis-sold financial products.
PeopleValue’s solution, The Zone, seeks to address the challenges of financial wellbeing, and the impact that this can also have on mental wellbeing, by offering a wide range of financial management resources to employees. These will be provided through the Advantage6 benefits platform.
Jodi Hamilton, Head of Marketing at Harrington Brooks, commented:
“We are delighted to be working with PeopleValue and offering our debt management services out to their clients’ employees through Advantage6. The financial wellbeing of employees is now firmly on the radar of employers, and by working with PeopleValue we are able to provide assistance to their entire user base so that employers can address this issue and provide assistance.”
Mike Morgan, CEO of PeopleValue, commented:
“Our health and wellbeing solution, The Zone, comes as standard within Advantage6, and the wealth of tools and resources available to employees means that employers are able to demonstrate their consideration for their wellbeing. Financial education and wellbeing is a hot topic and we have taken measures to introduce a service that will help employees pro-actively address their finances.”
Notes to Editors
Founded in 2002 and Headquartered in Wheatley, Oxfordshire, PeopleValue is a leading supplier of voluntary benefit and reward and recognition technology throughout the UK and Europe. The company plays an important role in providing technology that helps inspire, motivate, and reward employees, partners, customers and members. The company currently employs 35 staff over three offices serving over 260 corporate clients. For additional information about PeopleValue, call 01865 876696, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.peoplevalue.co.uk.
*The Money Statistics October 2014, from the Money Charity
**World Mental Health Day – 10th October 2014 – Citizens Advice calls for responsible lending
***StepChange, Cutting the cost of problem debt, 8th October 2014
New research from Uswitch has revealed widespread billing mistakes among energy suppliers, costing customers around £280 million.
Harrington Brooks customers can save on their energy bills, with our partners Uswitch.
Recent upgrades to new billing systems by a number of the big six energy suppliers are being blamed for many of the issues. Between 7.5% and 15.8% of customers were charged too much due to supplier errors, and ScottishPower customers are the most likely to be affected.
Uswitch’s energy expert Tom Lyon, highlighted the financial difficulty that these mistakes can make for households:
“It’s unacceptable that customers are picking up the cost of suppliers’ mistakes. Households are already facing sky-high energy bills and simply can’t afford simple blunders.
Correct bills are essential for people to stay in control of their energy and are the least customers should expect.”
At Harrington Brooks, we know that when money is tight, paying over the odds for your energy just isn’t an option. That’s why we have partnered up with Uswitch, to offer our customers the opportunity to find the best value tariff for their needs and switch suppliers, in a way that is hassle free and at no extra cost to them.
Members of Harrington Brooks staff took to the airwaves to discuss the many fundraising activities we have been involved in support of Forever Manchester. The LDOK Forever Manchester Radio show is dedicated to highlighting and supporting Greater Manchester’s communities and people.
Richard and Colin prepare to go on air.
Each year, Harrington Brooks staff members vote for a Charity of the Year, towards which all our business fundraising efforts go. Forever Manchester supports community groups and causes within the boroughs of Manchester, including Sale, where our offices are based.
We are proud to say that since August 2014, our staff have raised around £2000 for the charity. We have had activities including cake sales, a 52 mile cycle challenge, and even an abseil down the Printworks building in Manchester city centre.
Our Radio Stars
Colin works in our Admin Support team, and has done an incredible amount of charity fundraising over the past year. He has run 10k and cycled over 125 miles, and also raised money for Macmillan, Sport Relief and The Christie. Unfortunately, he sustained a serious knee injury training for his next event, and so has been unable to undertake anymore physical challenges, though he has been supporting from the sidelines, as well as taking part in our Charity Pumpkin Carving contest.
Colin has signed up to 100 miles worth of cycle challenges, a 10k run and a 1 mile swim for when his leg has recovered next year.
Richard is one of our Personal Finance Managers, and was chosen by staff to represent Harrington Brooks following claims he has a “face for radio”!
Last year, Richard was awarded a Certificate in Money Advice Practice by DEMSA and The Institute of Money Advisers, recognising his excellent customer service and the level of advice he provides.
Jodi is Head of Marketing for the One Advice Group, and has been involved with promoting Forever Manchester activities to staff as well as working with local schools and communities so that they can be supported by Harrington Brooks, either through mentoring or provision of resources.
Jodi said of Forever Manchester:
“Supporting a local charity that puts money back into the community is really important to us. Harrington Brooks is based in Sale and a large proportion of its employees live in the Greater Manchester area. It is great to see so many of our staff getting involved and supporting Forever Manchester as it is a truly worthwhile and important cause.”
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has confirmed limits on costs, fees and interest charged by payday lenders, following wide consultation with various industry stakeholders.
Stella Creasy, Labour and Co-operative MP for Walthamstow
From January 2nd, interest and fees must not exceed 0.8% of the loan amount per day, and default fees must not be greater than £15. Ultimately, a borrower will not pay back more than twice what they have borrowed.
The FCA estimates that through their regulations, 70,000 people are “protected” from payday loans – people that might have taken out loans and been worse off for doing so. However, Labour MP Stella Creasy has criticized the plans, arguing:
“Today’s news will be welcomed as an early Christmas present for Britain’s legal loansharks. This cap is just £1 lower than their current charges.”
Martin Wheatley, the FCA’s chief executive officer, has expressed confidence in the changes, stating:
“The new rules strike the right balance for firms and consumers. If the price cap was any lower, then we would risk not having a viable market, any higher and there would not be adequate protection for borrowers.”
Matthew Cheetham, Chief Executive of Harrington Brooks, is supportive of the changes, commenting:
“Harrington Brooks welcomes the efforts of the FCA to clean up the sector.” Adding “It is imperative that the regulator continues to enforce the new affordability requirements that came into effect in April.”
As a result of Wonga putting in place tough new affordability checks and writing off unpaid debts, Harrington Brooks will be able to remove over £3m of Wonga debt from customers financial management plans, the firm revealed today.
More than 10,000 of Harrington Brooks’ customers have Wonga debts and will no doubt welcome the news that the lender in total has written off £220 million worth of debts for 330,000 of its customers. A further 45,000 of Wonga’s customers in arrears will no longer have to pay interest on their loans.
However, the problem does not stop at Wonga. The FCA’s director of supervision, Clive Adamson, has said that the announcement should “put the rest of the industry on notice”, and Harrington Brooks agrees. Around 45% of Harrington Brooks’ customers have taken out a payday loan, and today the debt management firm is calling on all payday lenders to ensure that they consistently carry out robust affordability checks for their customers.
Matthew Cheetham, Chief Executive of Harrington Brooks comments: “We want to see every payday lender in the sector follow Wonga’s lead and introduce stricter lending criteria to address poor lending decisions. For too long the high-cost-credit sector has chased volumes causing considerable customer detriment. Harrington Brooks welcomes the efforts of the FCA to clean up the sector, but it is imperative that the regulator continues to enforce the new affordability requirements that came into effect in April.”
Notes to editors
As one of the UK’s largest personal insolvency companies, Harrington Brooks manages £920m+ of unsecured debts for over 75,000 customers and helps customer repay over £7m to creditors each month.
Established in 1998, its intention has always been to be a safe place for people in debt to find counsel and support – ensuring the best advice is given and appropriate solutions provided at all times.
It is a member of DEMSA, the industry trade association, which promotes good practice in the debt management industry to protect the interests of the public and the lenders to whom they owe money. DEMSA’s code of practice has approval from the Trading Standards Institute and goes further than the basic requirements of the law.
With financial worries in the back of your mind you’re probably feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders, unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel, struggling to sleep at night… Sound familiar?
Winning the battle but losing the war
Dealing with debt stress alone can feel a lot like winning the battle but losing the war. In attempts to combat arrears and missed payments, many look to borrow further credit. With time, interests and charges amount, and the stress continues to grow.
Ignoring debt can help it to grow.
Lighten the load: let’s talk about debt concerns
Don’t bury your head in the sand
As experts in financial solutions we know how financial concerns can lead to the downward spiral of debt, and with that comes stress. Debt can take a terrible toll on anyone and, if permitted, can lead to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
Stop worrying, and breathe…
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The path out of debt stress is only a conversation away.
Our message is simple:
Talk about it!
Talking about debt is not a problem, but NOT talking about debt IS a problem.
Many of our customers have felt previously unable to tell anyone about their financial difficulties, but by keeping it to yourself the burden becomes greater.
It’s often said that the first step of any journey is the hardest; and that’s very true of getting problem debts back under control. Please be assured – our advisers are compassionate and non-judgmental. You can speak to us with complete anonymity if you prefer. Once you understand the options available to you; you’ll find the next step of journey much less stressful.
The prestigious Royal College of Physicians in Central London shall be hosting the annual MALG conference on 19th November.
Darryl Matthews, Head of Credit Relations at Harrington Brooks, is to facilitate a workshop titled ‘Creditors and advisers do now talk together – job done then?’ On the positive potential outcomes of the conference Darryl comments:
“The aim is to promote communication, best practice, understanding and professionalism among organisations concerned with consumer credit and debt, debt advice, debt collection and related matters. With a wide range of companies represented from most of the big UK banks, to debt collectors, utility companies, the free sector, and government, it is important for Harrington Brooks to be a part of this to enable us to discuss issues that we face and engage in wider discussions about the debt and credit is arena as a whole.”
What is MALG?
The Money Advice Liaison Group (MALG) is a non-policy making forum for creditors, debt collecting agencies, enforcement officers, debt advisers, amongst others, to hold a discussion, promoting positive relationships between organisations with an interest in personal credit and debt.
The MALG Mental Health Working Party was set up in 2005 in recognition of the increasing incidence of debt problems and mental health conditions. In light of National Stress Awareness Day, MALG’s voluntary guidelines for good practice and awareness of the relationship between debt and mental health are available here.
The Debt Managers Standards Association (DEMSA) has recently surveyed a number of our customers, to check the quality of our service and our level of compliance. We were very pleased with the results, which highlighted the clarity and transparency of our service.
The majority of customers said their agreement was clear and easy to read.
Customers surveyed included those that had found us through the internet, the phone directory, and through our affiliates. All rated the overall quality of our service as either “excellent” or “good”.
We received some great comments from those questioned, including:
“Well done for your hard work, and thank you all for your help.”
“Since I have had my debt management plan, I have felt so much better and my health has improved… An excellent service.”
There were a few things to learn from the survey, including making it clearer that we are members of DEMSA, and that we follow their code of conduct. Being members of DEMSA is an important demonstration of our ethos surrounding treating customers fairly and operating to the highest levels of compliance with regulatory bodies, and it’s essential our customers know that they are in safe hands.
It’s a triple treat day for the staff at Harrington Brooks, with fancy dress, pumpkin carving and a bake sale. Staff are donating to Forever Manchester, a fantastic charity that helps communities in the Greater Manchester area, where our offices are based. Take a look at some of the great work our staff have done.
The Royal Bank of Scotland has seen a surge in complaints from people upset about money taken from their accounts for fees charged by payday loan brokers.
According to the bank, payday loan brokers have made a reported 1million attempts to raid customers’ accounts in July, 2014 alone, successfully extracting £1.1million in total, out of an attempted £60 million.
“There is no need to pay a fee to arrange a loan. You can go direct to reputable lenders who have new rules that ensure they will be clear and up front about costs and they cannot make more than two attempts to collect your loan payments from your account.” – The Conduct Finance Association
Terry Lawson, head of fraud at RBS and NatWest, said:
“We’ve seen large numbers of customers incurring charges they don’t expect when using a payday loan broker since July this year.
“We are reaching out to customers to warn them of these fees and taking steps to block the transactions altogether, but these are sophisticated organisations. They are resourceful and more needs to be done at an industry and regulator level to protect customers who may already be in vulnerable situations.”
Financial Ombudsman calls for vigilance when it comes to “unscrupulous payday loan middlemen”
How has this happened?
Vulnerable customers seeking payday loans have wrongly believed that the middleman brokers offering to find them a potential payday loan deal are in fact the lenders. The Financial Ombudsman has received many cases wherein the customer has been charged for this service without even receiving a loan at the end of it.
The Financial Ombudsman Service have received approximately 11,500 complaints about credit broking websites. Common among complaints have been customers that have been charged without recognising the broker company, or assuming the charge to be a payment towards the originally-sought loan.
How do I avoid Credit Brokers?
By seeking financial advice before taking on a payday loan you may find a more suitable solution than the high interest-rates of further credit that you cannot afford.
If you take on a payday loan, it is essential that you research those available to you. Credit brokers are not necessary in the process; they do not lend money and act as a go-between, offering information that is easily available to you when seeking a payday loan.
The Consumer Finance Association (CFA), who set standards for payday lenders through industry improvements, said:
“Brokers do not lend any money – they are simply the middlemen.
“There is no need to pay a fee to arrange a loan. You can go direct to reputable lenders who have new rules that ensure they will be clear and up front about costs and they cannot make more than two attempts to collect your loan payments from your account.
“Many brokers have no such rules and will keep dipping into your account to take arrangement fees.”
Have you been charged by a Credit Broker without realising?
If you have taken on a payday loan, read the terms and conditions of the loan and repayments to ensure you know exactly where your payments are going. RBS customers have found themselves with charges that they don’t understand, unaware that they’ve accepted the terms and conditions of broker websites that allow the sharing of customers’ data to other third parties. As well as this, the conditions of fees are widely unmentioned.
Senior ombudsman for the FOS, Juliana Francis said:
“It’s disappointing to see that more and more people are being misled into thinking that these credit broking websites will get them a loan.
“In too many of the cases we sort out, no loan is provided and people’s bank accounts have been charged a high fee, often multiple times.
“If money has been taken from your account unfairly or without warning, the good news is the ombudsman is here to help. Give us a call and we’ll help you quickly get things sorted.”