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StepChange colleagues

Providing free debt advice since 1993

Our history: From CCCS to StepChange Debt Charity

We have 30 years' experience helping people deal with their debt problems. A lot has happened in those years, including changing our name from the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) to StepChange Debt Charity. Here’s our story.

  • It all started in 1992 Vic Ware OBE and Malcolm Hurlston CBE founded Foundation for Credit Counselling after being inspired by the Consumer Credit Counselling model in the US.

    Vic and Malcolm created CCCS with a simple vision: No-one should have to pay for debt advice
  • In 1993 we became pioneers: we opened our first dedicated debt advice centre in Leeds. In the same year we pioneered the debt management plan (DMP), to help thousands of people repay their debts.
  • In 1995 we kept on growing: we branched out and opened two new offices, in Nottingham and Birmingham.
  • By 1996 creditors were paying attention: CCCS was starting to become well known among the biggest names in the UK credit industry. With their backing, we expanded our debt counselling services to help more and more people.
  • In 2001 we crossed the sea: We started providing debt advice and solutions to people in Northern Ireland.
  • In 2006 debt advice arrived online: By 2006, more people were looking for help online.

    To reach them, we launched Debt Remedy, the first online tool providing free, confidential debt advice.
  • In 2007 we branched out: CCCS Voluntary Arrangement launched as the only not-for-profit organisation offering individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs) on a charitable basis.
  • In 2009 we expanded our skills: we became approved intermediaries to offer debt relief orders (DROs).
  • By 2010 we were helping in new ways: we launched our equity release subsidiary, CCCSER, so we could help homeowners over the age of 55 repay their debts by considering more options through equity release solutions.
  • In 2012 we had a makeover: CCCS who? It was time for a change. We ditched our old name and became StepChange Debt Charity.

    We wanted our catchier name to reach more people who needed our help, and create a society free from problem debt. We became more visible and more vocal.
  • In 2013 people knew our name: Our plan worked. Over 500,000 people contacted us in 2013 to get debt help, up from under 400,000 in 2012. There’s a 50% increase in the number of people getting in touch with us online.
  • In 2014 we made some noise in January: we launched our first ever Debt Awareness Week, and it was a success. In fact, it became one of the busiest weeks in our history as we dealt with a huge £266m worth of debt in a seven-day period.

    In the same year our debt advisors in Scotland became money advisors and were approved by the Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB), allowing them to set up debt payment programmes (DPPs).
  • In 2015 we said “dia dhuit” to Ireland: with the UK covered for free debt advice, we turned our sights to Ireland. StepChange Debt Charity Ireland launched, offering clear, simple and impartial debt advice to those needing our help.

    Also in 2015, we successfully applied for the role of Payments Distributor of DPPs in Scotland.
  • In 2016 we were FCA authorised: we were pleased to receive authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and set ourselves up for the future of debt advice.
  • In 2017 we looked to the future: we were busy behind the scenes, preparing for big changes in the years ahead. These changes will help us to help even more people deal with their debts and provide innovative new ways to engage with our charity.
  • In 2018 we celebrated our 25th anniversary. In 25 years we helped over 5 million people and repaid £4 billion of their debts. We're really proud of these achievements, but we haven't on our laurels.
  • In 2019 we started to help more people avoid problem debt by developing our persistent debt service, and our much-anticipated new customer relationship management system went live to help us implement an omnichannel debt advice experience.
  • In 2020 we moved to new offices in Glasgow, and our persistent debt website hub was launched to help people address their worries with credit cards and overdrafts.

    When the coronavirus pandemic hit, we supported our colleagues to work from home and kept our services running throughout lockdown.
  • In 2021 we moved to our new offices in Leeds at 123 Albion Street. Breathing Space (known at the Debt Respite Scheme) was finally launched by the government in May and became available to our eligible new clients.

    We also began to tackle buy now pay later schemes in our policy work.
  • In 2022 we won our first Feefo Platinum Trusted Service Award for consistently delivering excellence.
  • In January 2023 we reflected on delivering 30 years of debt advice, helping over 7.5 million people since 1993.

    In May 2023 we appointed our first female CEO Vikki Brownridge who took up the role after 17 years of working with the charity.

    In September 2023 we launched our new brand, with a renewed focus on empathy and pragmatism powered by our new creative platform: ‘Debt happens. Let’s deal with it.’