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Lived experience at the heart of debt support

Natasha Cutler
Thrive LDN Economic Wellbeing Forum

During Mental Health Awareness Week 2024, Thrive LDN partnered with Money A+E to host a free webinar on how lived experience needs to be at the heart of debt support.


We heard about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on Money A+E service users, the Ethnicity Premium and the impact this is having on racialised and marginalised communities. The webinar was wrapped up with an overview of how Money A+E and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation have supported staff with money and debt issues.



An introduction to Money A+E


Money A+E is an award-winning social enterprise that provides money advice & education to disadvantaged groups, Diverse Ethnic Communities (DEC) and young people. Jerry During founded Money A+E in 2011, alongside co-founder Greg Ashby.

Jerry started the webinar by sharing the story of how the organisation came about, and the very personal background that has led to the lived experience ethos of Money A+E.

“It started when I met Greg when we worked at Toynbee Hall. We had shared experiences of poverty, exclusion and debt, which brought us together. We wanted to find ways to help people in the same situations, so we drew on our own experiences to come up with what is now Money A+E.”

Jerry’s family story is one that many Money A+E service users would recognise.

After being made redundant, Jerry’s father and his family experienced mounting issues caused by debt, from missing payments to relying on credit to pay monthly bills. It was a difficult time for family relations too, with his parents coming close to splitting up.

It was his father’s recovery from the situation that led Jerry to see what was possible with the right support, and to put that into practice at Money A+E. A combination of legal support to tackle the debt, alongside peer support from the community, helped Jerry’s family through that time.


The Ethnicity Premium


Jerry explained the Ethnicity Premium as a complex set of barriers reducing equal economic and social participation / inclusion and access to important rights, goods and services experienced by people on low incomes from Diverse Ethnic Communities (DEC).

Black Londoners are twice as likely to be in debt and borrowing from friends and family than white Londoners. In a survey of service users in 2019, Money A+E found that 86% of people with experience of mental health problems said that their financial situation had made the problem worse.

80% of Money A+E’s service users do not identify as White British. 64% currently rely on benefits or tax credits.

They report as having:
• Low levels of trust in high street financial products and services
• Experience and fear of discrimination
• Language and communication barriers
• Problems with financial literacy
• Additional lengthy hurdles and processes when trying to access services.

Jerry explained that without access to financial products such as savings or insurance, there is less financial resilience in these communities to be able to cope with financial shocks.

At Money A+E, they see these barriers impact financial exclusion, health, housing and employment in their service users, with:
• Significantly higher unemployment rates than white people
• More likely to be in low paid or insecure work
• 1.5x more likely to say that they are not coping financially
• Lower than average property values but higher than average mortgage payments
• 82% of service users live with a mental or physical illness or disability.

The importance of lived experience

Lived experience is at the heart of the origins and the leadership of Money A+E. Duane is a lived experience consultant at Money A+E, involved in the Lived Experience Steering Committee which is developing policies for the organisation. He shared his story with webinar participants.

“Having suffered with mental health and debt issues I felt alone with nowhere to go. The steering committee has given me something to focus on. I am passionate about helping others.

“I want people to know that there are they are not alone. Men are supposed to be and not to ask for help. I was told to ‘man up’ when I did ask for help at first. I want people to be heard and actions to be taken, without being patronised or judged.

“I asked for help and when I didn’t get it, I tried to take my own life. I want to stop that for other people. We need to break the silence and be more open.”


Money A+E and Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity


In 2023 alone, Money A+E managed £4.3m debt for service users, putting £1.2m back in their pockets.

Some of those who benefitted from the Money A+E approach were staff at Guy’s and St Thomas’ (GSTT) NHS Foundation Trust, through a partnership between Money A+E and Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity.

Ruth Taylor, the charity’s Funding Development Manager, and Dino Williams, Chair of GSTT Staff Side and Branch Secretary for Unison, shared the highlights and learnings from the partnership.

Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity knew that finances were one of the biggest stressors in the lives of GSTT’s diverse workforce. Through roadshows and face to face advice from Money A+E they have been able to reach and support thousands of staff across the various GSTT sites, many of whom are working in the lowest paid NHS jobs, to manage debt and take back £130k of income.

Dino explained the success of the programme.

“Our existing Employee Assistance Programme is mainly remote, so staff with accessibility or computer literacy issues might not benefit. Through face-to-face roadshows, we walked along with them while they were working – making it as easy as possible for them to get help.

“The debt practitioners had lived experience and were from a range of backgrounds. We could always find someone to bridge any gaps.”

Staff were supported to switch contracts for better value, get prepaid energy credits and access products they never thought they could. 98% of people have said it has been very useful, 88% felt more supported by the trust.

Dino emphasised how people had gone from “surviving to thriving” because of the support they had accessed.


Further information and opportunities


If you want to know more about Money A+E, either as someone with lived experience, support needs or an organisation wanting to replicate the success of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ partnership, you can find relevant contacts for Money A+E on their website.

Thrive LDN spoke with Money A+E co-founder, Jerry During, recently as part of our #ThroughTogether campaign, read more on our website.

Money A+E is also recruiting to the Racial Justice in Finance Network, contact Jodie and Finn for more information. As well as more lived expertise for financial wellbeing in the workplace or community, contact Luke for more information.