By Phil Andrew, CEO of StepChange Debt Charity
This week StepChange will mark 30 years of delivering free, impartial debt advice to those who need it. It’s an extraordinary milestone and I reflect with pride on how we’ve supported millions of our customers while the world has changed around us during that time.
In 1993 we pioneered the introduction of the Debt Management Plan, and in our first year of operation helped thousands of people to start taking control of their debt. Today, we support over 160,000 customers a year, providing vital support to some of the most vulnerable people in society.
In my five years at the charity, I’ve seen first-hand just how crucial the services we provide are to those in need. I’m immensely proud of the work our colleagues do every day, helping people to change their lives.
Sadly however, as we move into our 30th year of operation, it’s also clear that these services are going to be more important than ever.
The cost-of-living crisis is pulling more and more people into financial difficulty, with research now showing that over a third of UK adults would struggle with an increase in outgoings of just £20 a month.
And it’s equally troubling to see that more and more people are turning to credit to cover household essentials, with statistics from the Bank of England showing that month on month consumer borrowing rose in November 2022 by the highest amount since 2004.
This week we will meet with partners and stakeholders from across the industry, charity sector and government to restate our objective: to create a society free of problem debt.
We expect to support over 170,000 people through debt advice this year, and while this underlines the scale and importance of our work, we have to acknowledge that the debt advice sector is going through some changes that will challenge us.
Foremost of these is the loss of funding from the Money and Pensions Service, and without this funding from government, we’re more reliant on the contributions we get from our partners and from donations. This week I will set out again our commitment to working closely with all of our partners to help them identify, reach and provide support to customers in need, based on a sustainable financial foundation for the charity and the sector.
As we mark 30 years, I reflect on the impact every StepChange colleague past and present has had in improving the lives of the 7.5 million people we’ve helped tackle their debt. From introducing the Debt Management Plan, to campaigning for the introduction of the Breathing Space scheme, this charity has played a vital role in supporting the most vulnerable in society and helping people to improve their financial wellbeing.
This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of all our partners, and I extend my sincere thanks to all of those who have and continue to work with us and support our work.
I know every one of our colleagues remain absolutely committed to delivering our vision. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners to ensure that we will always be here for anyone who needs us.
Phil Andrew, Chief Executive Officer, StepChange Debt Charity