‘Using data visualisation to highlight patterns of debt in the United Kingdom’
The Foundation for Credit Counselling, based in Leeds, is a registered charity which was set up to assist people in financial difficulty by providing free, impartial and realistic debt advice. The Foundation for Credit Counselling is the umbrella charity for Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) in the United Kingdom. Through its free national telephone service, ten regional centres and online CCCS Debt Remedy, CCCS is able to help people with debt problems wherever they live. CCCS is continually looking for new ways to raise awareness of its services and its data is an important resource for its promotions.
CCCS felt that data such as the number of people seeking its help would be a good way to highlight the pattern of debt in the UK, which would be of interest to the media and politicians. Presenting the data in an easy-to-understand format would be helpful for the media and the public.
We spoke to Chris Allott, Business Information Development Manager about the initiative. Chris says the CCCS has an extensive data warehouse in the organisation which means the data is clean. “From our point of view getting the data was straightforward – the difficult bit was cleaning up the postcode data so that we could make sure the map worked,” he says.
“We have over 400,000 people seeking our help each year and the data has been compiled since 2005 which means we had six full years’ worth of data. The complicating factor was that we have two legacy systems and our current one so we had to integrate them.”
Meeting the need
The first report was launched in March 2011 and according to Una Farrell, Media Relations Manager at CCCS, media interest was intense and the story attracted a lot of interest. “We hadn’t published our stats in this way before so it was an interesting story. We had a sack load of media clippings,” she says. “It was great to get the word out.”
“A big audience for us is politicians and every MP is interested in what the debt levels are like in their constituency. Local media also were very interested. There has been such a high level of interest that we are planning to use data visualisation for other data.”
CCCS has just added new data to InstantAtlas - average debt levels for 2005 to 2010 - and Chris says there will be an update every quarter with new data sets being added and they plan to have a yearly update every March once new client data is available for the previous year. He believes the whole process will be much smoother now they have done it once already. .
There are other developments in the pipeline but Chris and Una are not prepared to go into to the detail just yet. “We want to keep track of variations between counties in the UK because this will ensure our services match the pattern of demand,” says Chris.
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