StepChange helped or guided nearly half a million people last year, with more people receiving full debt advice than in the previous year according to the charity’s impact report for 2022, published today.
Last year saw 167,000 people receive full debt advice compared to 158,000 people in 2021, while a further 312,000 clients used a StepChange money guidance or advice tool to support them.
Against a backdrop of soaring inflation and increased financial pressure on millions of households, the charity reached more than 2.8m people and helped clients to repay £371 million of debt. StepChange also saw more than 25,000 people become free from problem debt with its support.
The cost of living crisis took an inevitable toll on StepChange clients - in 2021 it was the eighth most common reason for new clients’ debts, whereas by 2022 it was the second most common reason. Last year also saw an increased number of clients come to the charity with a negative budget, which is when, after help and budgeting advice, someone’s income is not able to meet their living costs. Last year the charity was contacted by more than 54,000 people who, after full debt advice, had a negative budget. This represents a rise of 17% from 2021, when over 46,000 clients came to us with the same situation.
In this environment of rapidly rising costs and diminishing disposable incomes, every penny counts and StepChange advisors’ work to signpost clients to wider support was vital. One of the key signposts was to IncomeMax, who offer clients a completely free, detailed assessments of their benefit entitlement. In 2022, more than four in five (87%) clients completing an IncomeMax session saw an uplift to their income. In addition, StepChange’s online benefits checker helped over 12,000 clients identify increased benefits totalling £4.6m.
Alongside the work to help those struggling with the cost of living, the charity continued to work with partners to build services that met the changing needs of customers and clients. This included the launch of StepChange Direct, an innovative, customisable tool that helps clients to carry out an online money health check before being referred to debt advice, budgeting support, or additional help from their creditor. 2022 saw ten partners embed StepChange Direct into their customer journey, with more planned for 2023.
StepChange CEO Phil Andrew said:
"2022 was challenging, both for the clients we serve and for the debt advice sector as a whole, however there is much from the year that we as a charity can look back on with pride. With the hard work of our colleagues and the support of our partners we adapted rapidly to a new funding environment, finding the stability needed to begin 2023 in a strong position. This will allow us to continue to do what we do best - support our clients and our colleagues and campaign to stop people falling into problem debt. With the cost of living squeeze far from over, free, impartial debt advice is needed more than ever."
Read the 2022 Impact report