Debt 'widespread' even before crisis

Problem debt and financial fragility were already widespread in the UK before the Covid-19 crisis, debt charity Step Change has warned, revealing that it was contacted by 635,091 people in 2019 - the equivalent of one person every 49 seconds.

Debt was widespread even before the coronavirus outbreak

The research reveals just how vulnerable people are to changes in personal circumstances – three out of four new clients identified a life event or income shock as the main reason for their problem debt.

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The figures also reveal new StepChange clients had an average of £14,129 in unsecured debt in 2019 - an increase of eight per cent in the past three years. Credit cards continue to be the most common type of debt - seven in ten new StepChange clients had at least one, with the average amount owed at £7,635.

StepChange chief executive Phil Andrew said: “These figures tell us that financial resilience is already critically low, despite the fact that most of our clients come from in-work households. This should show policy makers during the current economic crisis how radical they will need to be to shore up UK families.

“We know that 3 million people across the country are already in problem debt and 9.8 are showing signs of financial distress. Unless people are well-supported through any upcoming period of financial difficulty, we can only expect the demand for debt advice to rise.”