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Record numbers seeking debt advice

Unexpected life events are the biggest causes of problem debt

The number of people seeking debt advice has reached a record high, according to figures from the charity StepChange.

In the first six months of the year, 331,337 people contacted StepChange for help with their debts.

Of the 190,484 new S clients who received full debt advice, the average level of unsecured personal debt was £13,799, representing a rise of 2% in the past six months and 6% since 2016.

Around a third of new clients’ outgoings were more than their incomes – the average monthly shortfall for clients with deficit budgets is £365.

The figures also reveal that unexpected life events are the three biggest causes of problem debt, with those experiencing a reduction in income (18%), injury or illness (16%) or unemployment or redundancy (16%) making up the bulk of new clients.

Phil Andrew, chief executive of StepChange, said more and more households are struggling to hang on and are ill-equipped to deal with any economic shocks the future may hold.

“By taking concerted action to curb unlawful bailiff behaviour and waking up to the impact the five-week wait for Universal Credit is having on those who have experienced a sudden drop in income, it can go some way to stemming the rising tide of those in problem debt,” he said.