Debt awareness week: Let’s start the conversation
By Gail Arkle, Director of Client Experience
Today marks the beginning of Debt Awareness Week, our annual campaign to raise awareness of problem debt and remind people that free, impartial advice is available.
This year’s event comes at an incredibly difficult time. The past two years have seen Covid take a huge toll on millions of households’ finances, many of whom were already struggling and worried about their problem debt. Now, as many people are still recovering from the pandemic, the cost of living is rapidly increasing, and millions are bracing themselves for the impact of the rise in the energy price cap and National Insurance contributions.
Put simply, this year’s Debt Awareness Week — and the need to open up about money worries — is more important than ever.
The theme for this year is “Let’s start the conversation around debt”. We know people can struggle to talk about debt, sometimes due to the perceived stigma and embarrassment many can feel about their financial problems. By starting the conversation and encouraging others to join in, we can start to break down that stigma and empower more people to access debt advice when they need it.
Our recent research highlights just how badly needed this advice is for many households. Earlier this year we found that nearly a third of people are struggling to keep up with bills and credit commitments — double the number struggling before the pandemic — while more than three million people have run down savings to make ends meet since March 2020.
Meanwhile, new polling we’re releasing today reveals one in five people thinks that external financial pressures this year, such as the increasing cost of living and energy price cap rises, will cause them to fall into problem debt.
So what does Debt Awareness Week mean for people in difficulty? We know for many people who are anxious and uncertain, they might not be ready for full debt advice or support yet. But we want them to know that we’re here.
We’ll be signposting to a broad range of online advice and support — from debt advice, our cost of living advice hub, and our invaluable benefit entitlement checker (updated to reflect the current situation).
And we’ll also be continuing to urge the Government to ensure they are putting in place the measures necessary to support those who need it. We have put forward our analysis of the current situation and highlighted the key interventions the Government can make. This week we’ll continue to raise awareness of what our clients are telling us and the support that they need now.
So please look out for our content this week. You can help this week by spreading the word, using #DebtAwarenessWeek on social media, starting a conversation with your friends, family or customers about any worries they may have, and, if you are struggling with your finances right now, by getting in contact with StepChange for free, expert debt advice.