Empowering practitioners to talk about money

This page was brought to you in collaboration with Renfrewshire HSCP, Engage Renfrewshire and Renfrewshire Council and is based around the Health Improvement Team work focusing on “ways to talk about money”.

It offers you a structured way to engage with your customer, patient, client or service user (termed as client for the purposes of this resource) to talk about money worries, in particular if money worries are playing a role in their lives. If you are a practitioner and work with people on any level, this guide will help you to begin to talk about money while reducing stigma and increase your confidence while directing you to where you should be able to get your client help.

Some people may be financially struggling or squeezed1 and others may just benefit from generally opening up conversations around money.

1Money Advice and Pension Service (MaPS) Segmentation definition:

Struggling describes the least financially resilient, characterised by low incomes, high rates of benefit dependency, poor provision for later life, little to no savings buffers in case of financial hardship and high over-indebtedness.

Squeezed describes people deemed to be high-risk, characterised by high rates of dependency on credit, absence of savings buffers to cope with income shocks, insufficient preparation for later life, and they may be living beyond their means in many cases.

The stigma of having no money

A UK Poverty 2022 Report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation highlights that a key issue for those sharing their experiences of poverty is stigma, and how stereotypes and prejudice unjustly shape essential services.

This blog shows how the stigma of having no money holds people back in their daily lives and presents some ideas that could help.

Please work through each section below and begin to place questions about money into your assessments and discussions with your clients. Over time, this will help you feel more at ease broaching the subject.


Please work through each section below and begin to place questions about money into your assessments and discussions with your clients. Over time, this will help you feel more at ease broaching the subject.

When there are eventful or major changes in someone’s life, their income may drop and their expenditure can rise. This can cause money problems or force people into financial difficulty.

Common trigger points include:

  • Recent major life changes – such as job loss, job changes, relationship breakdown, bereavement, birth or any ‘big’ disruption in circumstances.
  • Onset of illness – mental and physical illness can trigger debt. This can affect people with health problems, their family and their carers. Individuals with health issues who have lower annual incomes are more likely to have money worries.
  • Income disruption – benefit disruption, variations in job income as well as not claiming all the benefits an individual is entitled to.
  • ‘Low-income grind’- people living on a low-income for long periods tend to have worsening financial difficulties.

Be aware that the client may be unable to concentrate or feel they cannot deal with the issue alone so helping them to voice their fears first can help them relax. They may say they feel it is a hopeless situation so let the client have time to breathe through this and allow them time to open up. In addition, you should advise them to talk to someone who supports those in crisis – such as a mental health link worker through their GP. If you have concerns about a client’s welfare you should follow your organisation adult protection procedures, contact their GP or call 111.

If someone’s life is at immediate risk, for example by serious injury or overdose, phone 999.

Renfrewshire resources for those with mental health issues can be found here – Mental health – Renfrewshire Website

And NHS resources can be found here – Offering support to someone you’re worried is suicidal | NHS inform

In all cases where concern is raised you should contact and inform your Manager.

If someone has money worries it may not be obvious by just looking at them, but there will be tell-tale signs you may notice or that arise during your conversation with your client.

Go to our next section: Building a Picture.

Listening to the client will help you to know what questions to ask if money is a problem. During the conversation, the client may say things like:

  • They are going without food, skipping meals or eating less healthy or cheaper foods.
  • They are avoiding using household fuel.
  • They are unable to repay their family back.
  • They have missed appointments because they cannot afford to travel.
  • They have cut back on activities, socialising and seeing friends and other activities.
  • They have cut back on activities for their child, or children.

As a result of money worries anxiety and fear can build up, so their behaviour might be focussed on avoidance, quick fixes, a lack of confidence, a lack of knowledge and the associated stigma of having no money. Behaviours include:

  • They are not opening letters or answering phone calls.
  • They may think about needing money fast so consider high-cost credit such as payday loans or someone in their community or online who lends money and is a loan shark (more on this below).
  • They may try to gamble small amounts to win big.
  • They can fear making calls to get help, such as benefits help.
  • They may not know where or how to access help.
  • They may feel a stigma or a shame attached to having no money so keep it hidden.

Go to our next section: Starting the Conversation

It is good practice to build sample questions in your assessments to begin with. You can start the conversation by using one or two of these questions. It may feel uncomfortable at first but over time, you will gain confidence the more you use them:

  • “Can you share with me what money worries you have? It’s a very common problem.”
  • “What income is available to you and how often do you get it?”
  • “What have you got to live on?”
  • “With other clients we’ve found they sometimes find it difficult to pay their bills. How are you finding it?”
  • “You say you have been feeling low lately. Do you have any money worries?”
  • “Are you aware of anything that might be causing you this anxiety/depression? Is it money worries?”

Go to our next section: Going Deeper

It is good practice to relate the conversation to their situation and offer support. More details of support are below. Once again this might feel uncomfortable but it should feel more natural as you progress.

  • “You’re finding it hard to make ends meet; I’m not surprised lots of people do. Will you let me see if I can help you?”
  • “Do you have enough money each week to buy food? Have you paid for your gas/electricity? Can you afford your council tax? I can see what help we can get”
  • “So, you’re not opening letters in case they are bills, that must be a worry. Would you like some help to go through them?”
  • “Are you able to save a little each week? It must be hard but it might be possible. Can I check this out for you?”

Go to our next section: Referring to Help

It is good practice to keep a list of helpful organisations to hand to provide practical support to the client. You will be able to signpost your client to these, make a referral and/or be able to advocate on behalf of the person with their permission. Here are some national and local supports you can use to refer or reference, however we would always recommend getting formal money advice for your clients as the rules around benefits and money can be confusing and change quickly.

  • Turn2Us is a national website with tools for benefits enquiries and they can help with applications, there is a section on Grants, which may be useful to look at.
  • Gam Care can support your client if there are gambling debts or problems, they have a range of ways to contact them and you can find more resources for working with young people from the The Gambling Education Toolkit – now available online for free – Fast Forward
  • Renfrewshire Council Tax webpage has numbers of who to contact if your client faces arrears or non-payment.
  • Renfrewshire Council Housing and Housing Associations can support if your client has rent arrears or rent payment is an issue. They can also support with some living costs such as fuel on occasion, they will be able to tell you/your client what is available locally.
  • Home Energy Scotland, Energy Management Unit or Citizens Advice will all help with energy related payment issues and can direct clients to energy saving advice and grants.
  • Renfrewshire Citizens Advice and Renfrewshire Advice Works both provide formal money advice along with advocacy, budgeting, debt and money advice. They can conduct an exercise called Income Maximisaiton, which shows what benefits/grants your client is entitled to.
  • UWS or West College provide specific student funding and advice services.
  • There are five Local Credit Unions to choose from in Renfrewshire – Local Credit Unions – they can help your client with membership sign up and information on the benefits of joining.
  • Engage Renfrewshire has a handy resource for Renfrewshire called Food, Fuel and Finance providing a helpful list of up to date resources you can easily access from any electronic device.
  • Finally, if your client is employed, their employer may be able to help for example with making amendments to their wage structure or helping spread the cost of a travel card.

Remember you can also use these supports for yourself, family members or colleagues.

Mental Health and Finance

This interactive money toolkit is a resource to help you understand, manage and improve your mental and financial health. You can use it to help guide conversations with your relevant healthcare worker about your mental health and money. You can also take it with you to any money or debt advice appointments you might attend. This toolkit is split into different sections, allowing you to choose which ones are relevant to you. We recommend everyone completes Section 1 first. You don’t have to go through the toolkit in one go; you can come back to it at any time. Mental Health & Money Advice is part of the charity Mental Health UK.

Download the Mental Health and Money Toolkit or visit the Mental Health and Money Advice website.

Mental Health & Money Advice is part of the charity Mental Health UK. This resource was co-produced with MHMA and:

  • People with lived experience of mental health and money difficulties.
  • Healthcare professionals who support people to manage their mental health and money.

Mental Health UK would like to thank all of the people who kindly contributed to the creation of this resource. We are also grateful for the support of the Scottish Government and the Money & Pensions Service.

Go to our next section: Illegal Money Lending

Illegal money lending is a growing trend on social media platforms, and still exists in communities especially where there are high levels of deprivation. Borrowing money from a stranger online can be dangerous because you do not know from whom you are borrowing. The lender will not be regulated under Financial Conduct Authority rules and should be avoided. They can use tactics where they change the loan repayment amount and end dates without reason and use apps like Snapchat or other social media to send you intimidating messages. We know that there are lenders in our communities operating in similar ways.

Loan sharks are usually a lender of last resort because victims cannot access credit elsewhere, and many victims turn to them believing them to be a friend. Indeed, a common theme expressed in a number of illegal lending cases is the closeness of the shark to the lender; 61% of victims said that they knew the lender before borrowing, and 56% of victims said that they considered the loan shark to be a friend before they borrowed.

An illegal moneylender will not have proper legal records or offer paperwork when giving the money over, meaning you will not be clear what the repayment terms are.

If someone has informed you that they have used illegal lenders then the following assurance and support can be offered:

  • They are not criminals if they have borrowed from a loan shark, and are not in trouble (the loan shark is the criminal, whether online or in person).
  • Help is available.
  • Trading Standards Stop Illegal Lending Unit operates a 24-hour helpline for people to call when debts from an illegal lender have become a problem. The number is 0800 074 0878 or look on the website.

You can advise the client that they may even be able to contact a responsible lender such as Scotcash or Conduit Scotland who are both not-for-profit financial service providers. They can work with the client to sort out a loan* meaning the legal loan can be used to pay off the debt with the illegal lender, and then paid back at a much cheaper rate in a safer more regulated way.

*Terms and conditions set by the lender will apply.

Go to our next section: Following Up

It is good practice to offer a follow-up session to discuss if the money worry has been alleviated or to look at progress. Once again, building a question or two into sessions might reveal your guidance has been helpful and they have started to work on the money problem. Be mindful that they may not have made any inroad to tackling their money problem. Continue to signpost, offer a referral or advocate on their behalf. You might notice a difference related to their initial mood, demeanour or behaviour, which will make you both feel comfortable raising the subject of money again.

When the client has started to deal with money worries, there may be scope to ask them to consider making small savings each week or refer them to a credit union, or making their own savings or budget with the help of Citizens Advice, Advice Works or the MoneyHelper website.

We hope this guide has helped you to talk about money. If you would like further information on this topic then please do get in touch with any questions to

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