Balancing daily financial commitments can be challenging, and finding reliable personal finance advice even more so. A new venture from Experian is bringing tailored financial guidance directly to the people who need it most. In a two-day event held in March, Experian’s credit experts collaborated with local support services, including Advice Nottingham and Citizens Advice, to conduct interactive money clinics at Nottingham’s City Hospital and Queen’s Medical Centre. With an open invitation to NHS staff to book their spots or drop in during their breaks, Experian made it easy for individuals to discuss their personal finance concerns, providing much-needed assistance as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite.
Expansion of the Money Clinic initiative across England
It was so successful that it’s being replicated across other NHS trusts around England, with some sessions being moved online – aiming to make urgent financial advice available to as many people as possible, no matter where they are. And the team is getting creative to bring money help to people who need it. Partnering with Citizens Advice Nottingham & District in May, the Credit Paws Cafe – a one-day pop-up – gave locals the chance to enjoy the calming benefits of playing with some puppies while chatting one-on-one with experts about credit and other cash concerns.
Introducing the Credit Paws Cafe: finance advice and puppy therapy
James Jones, Experian’s head of consumer affairs, told The Big Issue what the financial education team learned across the events.
What were the most common subjects people sought advice on? Some people were starting their journey to applying for a mortgage, others were concerned about rebuilding their credit scores or applying for benefits. It’s fair to say a lot of people are worried about their financial futures. I don’t think anyone is completely shielded from the current cost of living crisis. But we know, and were reminded by this event, that everyone’s circumstances are different. Not everyone was in a crisis, far from it. But a lot of people find personal finance a bit of a challenge. That’s not always easy to overcome, even if you’re not too bogged down in affording day-to-day life.
Why the Money Clinic format works: breaking down financial taboos
Why is a format like the money clinic pilot so effective? More than 60 people attended, and some sessions lasted hours due to the complex financial challenges some people faced. There were open rooms where people could ask general questions which they were happy for other people to listen in on, and private spaces for those who wanted to have more detailed conversations about their lives. Money is a taboo topic, it’s not something people often want to talk about – including when they have challenges, which is a terrible shame. So having that initial conversation can be both the most difficult and the most crucial step to start getting back on top of things. We hear through our debt advice partners that people often put off asking for help for up to a year, whether that’s through anxiety or the perceived taboo of it. Having that support available essentially on your doorstep, when you’re at work anyway rather than having to go out of your way, can make the difference. We certainly saw people who used the clinics to speak up for the first time.
Come for the dogs, stay for the advice you can get on the money worries you’ve been too scared to ask about
Puppies aren’t often involved in personal finance. What are the benefits of initiatives like the Credit Paws Cafe? We’re trying to break the money taboo, but the biggest challenge there can often be is getting people through the door. The idea is: come for the dogs, stay for the advice you can get on the money worries you’ve been too scared to ask about. It creates a much more relaxed atmosphere too – we know that interacting with animals is a good stress-buster, that’s why you’ll see dogs visit universities, for example. Talking about finance doesn’t need to be intimidating or unpleasant, but it often still feels like that for a lot of people, so a puppy sitting in someone’s lap can help them relax enough to engage with what we’re offering. And hopefully, from then on, feel more confident about seeking advice when they need it.