MAT > Research & policy > Research


The Money Advice Trust is committed to a programme of research which enhances understanding of the debt and credit environment and practically improves money advice.

We have worked with a range of leading researchers from highly respected academic institutions across the UK. The Trust's research has a strong reputation for breaking new ground whilst complimenting existing work.
The Trust's research strategy is managed by our Insight team, which is challenged with enhancing our services for the public and for advisers through research and analysis.


The Trust's latest research projects include:


The Trust published Supporting small businesses with energy debt, carried out by the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre exploring the impact of energy debt on small businesses. The Trust has also published a number of recommendations for industry, government and the regulator to ensure small businesses have the support and protection they need. . 
The qualitative research, based on interviews with small business owners who engaged with Business Debtline, explores their experiences of falling behind on bills, dealing with energy suppliers and seeking debt advice. 
While primarily focused on energy debt, the report also provides insight into people’s experiences of setting up and running a small business and how they deal with business finances. The findings show that more support is needed for small business owners, and that energy suppliers need to consider the ‘person behind the business’. 
In Stop The Knock 2017, we present a review of developments in the area of local authority debt collection practices since 2015, including trends experienced by debt advisers, new research on local government debt collection and a summary of developments in engagement between local authorities and the advice sector. 
More than 2.3 million debts were found to have been passed to bailiffs by local authorities in 2016/17, based on Freedom of Information requests. The research found that councils increased their use of bailiffs by 14 percent overall between 2014/15 and 2016/17, despite government guidance stating that bailiff action should only ever be used as a last resort. However, the report also found that an increasing number of councils are working hard to improve their debt collection practices – and that four in 10 (38 percent) actually reduced their reliance on bailiffs in that time. 
This year the Trust also expanded the scope of our research to more comprehensively map the debt collection practices of lower-tier local authorities. This was based on five different areas of practice – signposting to free debt advice, assessment of affordability, the existence of vulnerability policies and (for England only) approaches to Council Tax Support recipients and adoption of the Citizens Advice/Local Government Association Council Tax Protocol. 
In the first of three 'spotlight briefings' on debt and young people, Borrowed Years outlines the Trust's research exploring 18 to 24 year olds' experiences with credit, debt and borrowing.  Our findings show that many young people are building up debt and worrying about money in their first few years of adult life, but far too few are seeking advice when they fall behind.  Against the backdrop of these findings, we present a selection of policy ideas for measures that could help under 25s to avoid financial difficulty and manage their money well. The second spotlight briefing on young people and borrowing from family and friends and the third spotlight on mobile phones were both published in November 2016. 
Local councils in England and Wales instructed bailiffs to collect debts on 2.1 million occasions last year. The figure shows overall bailiff use by local authorities has risen 16 percent in the last two years, despite wide variations across different councils and repeated calls from the debt advice sector, housing charities and others for debt collection practices to improve.
The findings are based on Freedom of Information requests to all 375 local authorities in England and Wales, and show the readiness with which councils instruct private bailiffs to collect unpaid debts – despite the serious negative impact this can have on individuals and businesses in financial difficulty. Councils that use bailiffs the most were also found to have had less success, on average, in collecting council tax arrears.

The welcome economic recovery will present opportunities for many self-employed individuals and micro-businesses to flourish. However, new research from Business Debtline reveals that tens of thousands of small business owners are paying a high personal cost as they take risks to support the economic recovery .
As the numbers in self-employment grow, it is vital that we understand their challenges, as well as celebrating their successes.
This report, based on the experiences of 104 of our Business Debtline clients and our expert advisers, summarises the challenges facing small-business owners who are finding it difficult to make ends meet.



Changing household budgets

Research conducted by the Money Advice Trust reveals more people are falling into debt because they can’t afford basic household bills such as energy bills, water bills, telephone bills, and council tax. 
National Debtline  has seen a radical shift in the types of debt problems it helps people resolve. More people than ever before now need help with energy debts, water debts, telephone debts, council tax debts, and catalogue shopping debts – whilst less people report problems with traditional credit products such as bank overdrafts, loans and credit cards. 
The report highlights this important change in the debt landscape, despite the recovery of the UK economy, and the challenges this brings.


Sustaining debt repayments

This research, on behalf of the Money Advice Trust and Lloyds Banking Group, was conducted by the Centre for Research and Social Policy at Loughborough University.

An online survey was initially conducted by TNS using their panel database, with 1,003 interviews achieved among people who were, or had recently been, in informal repayment arrangements, including self-negotiators and those in debt management plans. Qualitative interviews were then carried out among a cross-section of 24 people to explore their experiences in greater detail.
The report explores the key motivations and barriers to maintaining repayments and produces recommendations for best practice for creditors and debt management companies. 

Demand, capacity and the need for debt advice in the UK 2012

This report presents new and updated analysis of the demand for debt advice in the United Kingdom. Beginning in autumn 2010, MAT launched a project focused on statistical analysis of advice demand data to inform about developments in advice demand and the likely future direction of demand for money advice.
The key findings from that project were presented in the first Demand, Capacity and Need report published by MAT in January 2011. An update on developments in advice demand was published in June 2011. This report presents further updates on developments in advice demand plus new forecasts for advice demand volumes from the first quarter of 2012 onwards, as well as a regional breakdown of demand trends across the UK. 

Debt advice channel strategies - volume one and volume two

This research brings together for the first time evidence around how people need and want to seek debt advice and how they can be directed towards the most appropriate channel. It seeks to understand how outcomes and experiences differ between different advice channels, the dynamics of channel choice and the potential for channel shift.
The research findings illustrate that across all channels, a significant majority of clients have received positive outcomes as a result of receiving debt advice. Each channel carries its own benefits as well as potential drawbacks. 

Facing the squeeze

This is a unique, qualitative report that delves beneath the surface of the high-level statistics on the state of the economy, and presents a picture of the human cost of the recession. It reveals that although the UK's 'technical recession' has ended, for many households the 'practical recession' is in full swing.

The report follows on from the first Facing the Squeeze report conducted in 2009 and demonstrates that households are feeling the effects of the economic crisis more sharply than they were two years ago.
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Claire King
Insight manager
0121 410 6262

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