Debt problems can happen to anyone

Debt Awareness Week aims to put problem debt and free advice on the agenda. This year, organiser StepChange is demystifying debt advice and calling on those struggling to seek help.

From the Covid-19 pandemic to the current cost of living crisis, consumers have had a difficult few years. Rising inflation rates mean the cost of food and fuel has risen rapidly and money doesn’t stretch as far as it did. Despite their efforts to economise, many UK consumers are struggling to make ends meet.

This Debt Awareness Week, independent debt advice provider StepChange is focusing on how debt can happen to anyone – and raising awareness of the support that’s out there for those struggling.

Rising numbers seeking help

StepChange has seen a rise in the number of people using its services who have never before experienced financial difficulty. Those who have not been in problem debt until now often don’t know where to turn for help, nor do they fully understand the process of getting debt advice.

“We know that the cost-of-living crisis is affecting households across the UK, and it’s now the most commonly cited reason for debt among our clients,” says StepChange Relationship Manager James Barkworth. “Because of the crisis, we’re seeing increasing numbers of people who may have never experienced debt worries before, and simply don’t know where to turn or that help is available. For that reason, this year’s Debt Awareness Week is more important than ever.” 

He adds: “By working with a range of partner organisations like Intrum who signpost to us, we’re able to raise awareness and reach more people so that they know they’re not alone and that free, impartial advice is available. Ninety-two percent of our clients say that they waited too long to get help, and so working with our partners is vital to help people access our support and start tackling their debt and improve their financial situation.”

“There are many misconceptions about debt advice,” says Intrum UK Compliance Director David Price. “Seeking debt advice does not negatively affect your credit score nor should it cost you money. Increasingly, we have seen imposter firms charging people £40 a month for advice but paying their creditors hardly anything – taking funds that could otherwise be used to pay down the person’s debt. These unregulated firms are clearly putting the customer in a worse situation.”

Don’t suffer in silence

At Intrum, we work with consumers every day to find solutions to their debt problems. That means figuring out how much someone can afford to repay and setting up a realistic and sustainable payment plan so they no longer have to worry and can get on with living their life.

Call handlers communicate with empathy and take the time to understand each person’s circumstances. In addition specialist teams work with those who are in a vulnerable situation.

“We understand the stigma and fear attached to debt but urge people to get in touch with us as we can help them unravel the problem and take a weight off their mind,” says Intrum UK Managing Director Eddie Nott. “Ignoring debt issues doesn’t make them go away; we’re here to help find a solution.”

For those with multiple debts to different lenders, free independent advice such as that offered by StepChange can be invaluable in helping them work out the next steps to take. Intrum regularly signposts consumers to StepChange and other free providers.

“She was so lovely and polite towards me. She made me feel at ease and a lot less anxious about speaking to you on the phone. She’s helped me with my next step and also sent me some helpful links for financial advice.”
Intrum UK customer, February 2023