As part of The Big Conversation, we ran a series of virtual events to explore the best road to recovery for regions across the UK.  

Executive summary

On 21 October 2020, stakeholders for Northern Ireland gathered as part of Lloyds Banking Group’s Big Conversation to discuss the challenges, opportunities and critical areas of support needed to support people whose finances have been negatively affected by the pandemic, and help them move from debt to future resilience.

The key issues discussed were:

  • COVID-19 has left groups such as 18-24s exposed to financial difficulties in Northern Ireland.
  • People are hesitant to seek support for financial issues, even during a crisis.
  • Charities and community groups have been at the heart of the response.
  • Information campaigns and outreach work can help dismantle the stigma around discussing financial issues. 
  • A joined up and place-based approach will benefit those most in need.
  • Both short term and longer term solutions are needed to build financial resilience.

Event attendees


Jim McCooe
, Lloyds Banking Group Ambassador for Northern Ireland

Paula Bradley, MLA Democratic Unionist Party, Northern Belfast

Paula Bradshaw, MLA Alliance Party, Southern Belfast

Brenda McMullan, Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland, Executive Director

Elaine Black, Mindwise, Operations Director

Janine Maher, Money and Pensions Service, Northern Ireland Manager

Nicola Bannister, Lloyds Banking Group, Customer Financial Assistance Director

Sarah Murphy, Rethink, Associate Director for Advice, Information & Training

Sinead Campbell, Advice NI, Head of Money Debt and Quality

Teresa McCloskey, Apex Housing Association, Quality and Performance Improvement Manager

Vanessa Northam, StepChange, Head of Strategic Relationships

Watch the event highlights

Challenges and opportunities


 

Covid-19 has left diverse groups exposed to financial difficulties in Northern Ireland. 

  • The pandemic has led to uneven impacts across demographics. Low income workers, young people and ethnic minorities are particularly vulnerable to financial insecurity.
  • Hidden poverty is a significant issue and many people are facing financial difficulties for the first time during this crisis.

People are hesitant to seek support for financial issues. 

  • There are deep rooted cultural barriers to discussing financial issues due to anxiety and fear of being judged.
  • The impact on people’s mental health is highly concerning, worsened by the uncertain climate.

Charities and community groups have been at the heart of the response.

  • Referrals to food banks and charities in Northern Ireland have seen huge increases during the pandemic. The voluntary sector has played a vital role supporting people in Northern Ireland, often with limited resources.

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"We need to let people know who they can turn to and attack the stigma around financial difficulty and mental health issues." 

 

Nicola Bannister, Lloyds Banking Group

Solutions to build financial resilience


 

Information campaigns and outreach work can help dismantle the cultural stigma around discussing financial issues. 

  • Public information campaigns and raising awareness of debt charities can play a vital role in normalising conversations about money, and encouraging people to seek support earlier on.
     

"We can’t wait for people to come to us, we need to be where they are. It’s about being more client-focused, rather than service-focused."

 

Sarah Murphy, Rethink

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A joined up and place-based approach will benefit those in need. 

  • Greater coordination in the commissioning and delivery of services is needed to better serve people’s needs. This includes referrals and signposting between services, e.g. between financial, housing and health.

Both short term and longer term solutions are needed to build financial resilience. 

  • Longer-term solutions include developing a cohesive anti-poverty strategy and education initiatives to build financial literacy.
  • Short to medium term solutions include exploring access to affordable credit for low income households, extending the Winter Fuel Payment and considering changes to the Universal Credit system. 

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Read about how we've been getting to the heart of what the UK's people, businesses and communities need to emerge stronger and better than before, and see the other regional event summaries.

Find out more