Reimagine Debt

A proven approach to preventing debt that can be scaled across government

The Cabinet Office’s Reimagine Debt pilot sought to prove whether proactive approaches are more effective in tackling debt and reducing arrears
LIFT pinpointed households in arrears eligible for the pilot. Policy in Practice tracked debt journeys and compared the impact of interventions with a control group
Arrears across all cohorts in the treatment group fell significantly and additional social impacts proven, alongside economic benefits for councils and families

A tale of debt prevention in two cities

Policy in Practice carried out analysis using the Low Income Family Tracker (LIFT) platform. By identifying, analysing and tracking changes in household income and arrears on a monthly basis, councils improved customer engagement, targeted support proactively, and were able to see each customer’s journey on a single screen.

LIFT tracked 18 out of 28 households in Barking and Dagenham and 10 out of 20 in Newcastle. Both councils took different approaches to support their individual cohorts. 

LIFT compared these households to a control group to show whether arrears fell more than similar households, and to prove the effectiveness of the intervention.


of households became totally arrears free in Newcastle


Average arrears per household in Newcastle fell by

Outcomes for Newcastle City Council

Of the households LIFT tracked, the following outcomes were found:

  • Proportion of rent or council tax arrears greater than £250 fell from 18% to 8%
  • Average benefits income increased by £171 per month
  • Average rent and council tax arrears fell by £174
  • 50% became wholly arrears free
  • Average earned income grew by £108 per month
  • Arrears fell by 3 times more in the treatment group than in the control group

Return on Investment: Newcastle City Council

Fiscal savings £113,682
Economic savings £61,415
Total savings £175,097
Total cost £6,873
Total benefit £168,224
Return on Investment  24x

“Often, residents have other challenges to deal with which can affect how they’re able to deal with the financial aspects of their lives. Proactive and holistic debt interventions can support them to do this, helping people to get back on their feet and have a more stable life.”

Claire Horton
Newcastle City Council

“Debt is not about numbers, debt is about people, behaviours and circumstances. We fix debt problems by focusing on people.”

Steve Coppard
Cabinet Office

Policy in Practice helped Newcastle City Council and London Borough of Barking and Dagenham in a Cabinet Office project, Reimagine Debt, which used data insights to deterimine the effectiveness of proactive approaches to tackling debt.

“Debt is almost always a symptom of a deeper challenge. Data allows you to quickly identify that there’s a problem, and face to face interaction allows you to get to tackle the root cause and find solutions.”

Mark Fowler
Barking and Dagenham

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