NEWS14 September 2017

Debt advisers use ‘nudge’ science to encourage people to get help

Behavioural science News UK

UK – Debt advisers are using behavioural science to try to ‘nudge’ more people to get help with their money problems.


The Money Advice Service, a body set up by the UK government to offer free financial advice, has produced a guide to help its advisers apply the learnings of behavioural science.

The tips in the guide are mostly small tweaks in the way advisers communicate, which have been shown to have a big impact on what people go on to do.

These include avoiding the word "debt", and taking steps to make the experience more personal, such as adding handwritten notes to letters and making sure people know the name of the adviser they will be seeing.

The suggestions came out of two pilot projects that the Money Advice Service ran in London with the help of behaviour change specialist Ogilvy Change.

South West London Law Centres, one of the organisations that took part in the pilot, saw its appointment attendance rates increase by over a third, from around 50% to 67%. Debt team leader Roni Marsh said: “Streamlined communications and more frequent contacts have had a particularly positive impact on harder-to-reach clients – those with mental health challenges, low literacy levels and those who had already failed to attend multiple appointments previously”.

Colin Kinloch, innovation and strategy expert at the Money Advice Service said: “The tips in this guide are a great starting point to inform practical steps we can all take to communicate better with people that do or could use debt advice. The results of the pilots provide a strong rationale for further work in this area and we will continue to explore the precise application of relevant insights from behavioural science to improve outcomes for over-indebted people before, during and after they access debt advice”.

The guide on using behaviour change to increase the uptake of debt advice can be found here.