Posted on: 26 March 2021
One in six UK adults may be struggling with problem debt. If your debts are causing you stress, find out where to go for help.
Debt Awareness Week takes place 22-28 March 2021, so this week we’re talking about debt and how to get help if you need it. Even before COVID-19, the Money Advice Service estimated that 8.3 million people in the UK had problem debt, meaning that they struggle to cope with the money they owe.
The pandemic has pushed many households into difficulty because of life events like job loss or a period of illness, which means their income has gone down. In this situation many people borrow to make ends meet, but it can be difficult to make repayments and sometimes finances hit a crisis point.
Am I one of the 8.3 million?
That’s one in six of us dealing with problem debt - but often people don’t talk about it. There are well-established links between financial worries and mental health, with many people staying silent because they feel embarrassed, overwhelmed, or depressed.
Take a look at the statements below. If you answer yes to two or more, then it’s important to know where to go for debt advice.
- I’m struggling to pay my rent or mortgage
- I can’t afford to pay my council tax
- I’ve missed repayments on my gas, electricity or water bills
- I’ve been contacted by people I owe money to
- It’s a strain to pay off credit cards, loans or my overdraft
- I’m often worried or stressed about my debts
How to get help with debts
There’s evidence that getting free debt advice makes a huge difference to getting out of debt. You don’t need to pay for the help either, so avoid any firms that charge a fee. There are a number of charities and free organisations that will help you work out the next steps.
You can use the Money Advice Service’s tool to find the free debt advice providers and services local to you. You can speak to an adviser face-to-face, over the phone or via webchat.
A debt adviser will:
- never judge you or make you feel bad about your situation
- always be happy to talk to you, however big or small your problem might be
- find ways to manage your debts even if you think you have no spare money
- suggest ways to deal with debts that you might not know about
It’s best to get in touch as early as possible, before the debt has a chance to snowball, but it’s never too late to seek help. Many people who ask for help with debt say they wish they’d done it sooner. Working on a plan will make you feel less stressed or anxious and more in control of your life.
You can also check your employee benefits platform or app to see if you have access to debt advice via an Employee Assistance Programme. This is a confidential 24/7 phone line where you can speak with a trained adviser about anything that’s worrying you and get actionable advice. There’s also an option to see a professional counsellor if needed.
For more advice on managing your money, try our article on ‘Facing up to financial fears’.