In this weeks Leading the Way blog, we review feedback from our recent collaborative webinar sessions on the Debt Respite Scheme and consider what this indicates for the launch of Breathing Space.
Bristow & Sutor recently held two webinar sessions discussing the Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space) which is due to come into effect on Tuesday 4th May 2021. As part of our commitment to leading the way, we asked members of the debt advice sector and technological solutions firms to collaborate with us on these sessions, creating a unique opportunity for attendees to hear from and understand both alternate and aligned views.
We held our two webinars on this topic over two separate days and at differing times, ensuring people who were interested in attending had the best chance to be involved even if scheduled times caused an unavoidable clash. A supplementary recording has also been published for the benefit of those who could not attend, as well as a document reviewing Q&A responses from both dates. In total we were joined by over 268 unique attendees, continuing a positive growth trend we have seen in webinar sessions since we began to offer these last year.
Helen Addis, Social Responsibility and Customer Welfare Manager at Bristow & Sutor, represented the enforcement sector and discussed the impact on processes and the importance of communication with local authorities and debt advisors. She looked into the effect this will have on the way we work with vulnerable debtors and also provided an understanding of the differences between a standard breathing space and a mental health crisis breathing space; whilst reminding attendees that the regulation changes do not change what customers are contracted to pay.
Sam Nurse, Director & Chair of Money Advice Hub and member of Bristow & Sutor’s Independent Advisory Panel, explained how Breathing Space can only be applied after assessment from a qualified debt adviser. She discussed the importance of this role and the ongoing review of obligations, as well as reiterating the fundamental purpose of the legislation - supporting those who genuinely cannot pay or are vulnerable.
Ian McManus, from software providers Lateral, was also present and spoke about how technology solutions can make adhering to Breathing Space regulations an easier and more efficient process. He discussed what data needs to be tracked and how software can add operational efficiencies with the use of a single view system.
Both events concluded with Q&A sessions, with all three speakers providing the latest insight available on specific concerns. Nobody has all the answers to Breathing Space interpretations at this stage and that will not be the case until the legislation comes into effect. But there was genuine appreciation shown for the clarity of information provided and an understanding that discussing this topic will lead to refined solutions and best practice being found more efficiently.
We asked attendees to complete a post-webinar feedback survey and out of those that did, it was suggested that new information (unknown before attendance) contributed to 53% of the content included in the sessions. This is a significant figure because it indicates that despite all of the information discussed being available currently, over half of this was being heard or understood for the first time. It is imperative therefore that conversations to consolidate knowledge around Breathing Space continue prior to legislation coming into effect in May. We were delighted to see that attendees gave an average 9/10 when asked if they would recommend future sessions to a colleague and scored us an average 4/5 when rating the session overall.
Many of Bristow & Sutor clients have already begun preparing for these processes within their teams and we will continue to foster a prepared way of thinking. Our united approach to these webinars alongside the debt advice sector is symbolic of how Bristow & Sutor is always open to useful collaboration. Much in the same way that we offer training to debt advice personnel or how our Enforcement Agents (EAs) refer vulnerable people to welfare teams, Breathing Space is another example of how antagonistic perceptions are not always an accurate reflection of common goals and directives.
Looking back on the decision to offer a combined webinar, Sam Nurse said, “I was delighted that Bristow & Sutor asked me to take part in these sessions and that we were able to provide an informative and objective discussion for attendees. Public events that show collaboration between debt advice and enforcement are rare, but this is a very important aspect of the upcoming Breathing Space regulations. I think we have proven that we can work together and that despite differences, we are trying to achieve the same thing.
“We all wish to ensure collections are appropriate and that vulnerable people gain the right level of protection and support that they deserve. A united approach to Breathing Space will help achieve these goals and discussions like this are a positive sign that we are on the right path.”
Bristow & Sutor remains fully committed to its ethos of being cool, calm and collected.