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Paths to Recovery: Understanding client outcomes 15 months after debt advice

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Since 2017, we've been continuously measuring the outcomes of our clients in problem debt.

We define a ‘client outcome’ as the changes, or lack of changes, in a client’s situation after receiving debt advice. This includes how they are progressing with debts, building financial resilience as well as other aspects of their life such as overall wellbeing.

This report outlines the latest findings from our client outcomes project, focussing on the outcomes of clients at 15 months after debt advice. The report also revisits key measures discussed in our first report, ‘Measuring Client Outcomes’, published in 2019.

Our latest report, ‘Paths to Recovery’ finds:

Number one

Most clients report good levels of progress

At 15 months after advice, three in four clients (75%) said they were making at least fair progress in dealing with their debts, including 12% who had become debt free and 27% rating their chance of becoming debt free as ‘excellent’. 

However, not all clients are progressing equally. One in five (19%) clients say they have a ‘poor chance’ or ‘no chance’ of becoming debt free highlighting the many different paths to financial recovery.

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Number two

Debt advice has many long-term positive effects

Using ONS wellbeing and the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing scale, this project finds overall our clients’ happiness, levels of anxiety and overall mental wellbeing showed improvement across three, nine and 15 months after debt advice. 

This encouragingly highlights the positive impact of debt advice beyond a client’s financial situation. 

Existing research highlights the positive implications of increased wellbeing not only for the individual, but also for wider social costs.

two thirds of clients on Universal Credit
Number 3

Many clients are still on a financial knife edge

At 15 months after advice, four in five clients say having rainy day savings is important, but only 9% would be able to cover the costs of an expenditure shock such as the cost of repairing white goods in an emergency. 

We also found more than a quarter (27%) of clients had used credit between 9 and 15 months after advice.

This prompts questions for the debt advice sector, financial services firms, regulatory bodies and government about what can be done to ensure people are not only able to tackle their debt, but also achieve better financial resilience to weather subsequent future income or expenditure shocks.

90% of clients receiving Universal Credit