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The number of British consumers who are struggling with debt is growing, as a record number of people contacted StepChange for help with their debts in the first six months of 2019, the debt charity has revealed.
According to StepChange, 331,337 people contacted the charity seeking help for their debt and of these, 190,484 were new StepChange clients who received full debt advice. As well as this, the charity revealed that the average level of unsecured personal debt is growing, with the average at £13,799, which is a 2% increase in the past six months and a 6% rise since 2016.
While there are many reasons that can lead to debt, StepChange highlights 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 its new clients. In addition to this, the charity reports that a third (31%) of new client’ outgoings were more than their incomes, with the average monthly shortfall at £365.
Phil Andrew, CEO of StepChange Debt Charity, said: “These statistics provide a sobering assessment of the scale of problem debt in this country. Across the board we are seeing red flags, including worrying proportions of new clients falling into debt due to reduced income, illness or because they rely on credit to pay for day-to-day living expenses.
“Clearly more and more households are struggling to hang on and are ill-equipped to deal with any economic shocks the future may hold.
“These figures must act as a wake-up call to the Government, who have a real opportunity to tackle some of the drivers of debt in the upcoming Queen’s Speech and beyond. 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.”
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