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StepChange responds to new FCA Financial Lives survey

10 April 2024

Today the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has published new findings showing that 7.4m people were struggling to pay bills and credit commitments in January 2024, down from 10.9m in the previous January. The research comes as the regulator reminds firms of its expectations to support borrowers in financial difficulty.

Richard Lane, Chief Client Officer at StepChange, said:

"While overall pressures on households have eased slightly in the last 12 months the number of people struggling remains much higher than pre-pandemic. It’s important that lenders remain vigilant to those who are still at risk of financial hardship, so we’re pleased to see the FCA raising expectations of the steps firms must take to identify and support customers in difficulty. In 2023, average unsecured debt among StepChange clients reached its highest level for a decade, while the charity saw a 10% rise in people seeking help with problem debt.

"While some people’s financial position may have marginally improved, the cost of living crisis has left others in difficult circumstances, with those on lower incomes particularly struggling to repay significant household debt and relying on credit to keep up. Research has shown that people in financial difficulty are often struggling with anxiety, embarrassment and stigma and tend to try and juggle their finances and cope for too long before seeking help, when they could benefit from lender support and free debt advice sooner.

"As we approach one year since the FCA introduced the new Consumer Duty, it’s essential that firms focus their efforts on reducing customer harm by spotting signs of financial difficulties early. Offering tangible help and referring to debt advice at an early stage could make a real difference to consumer outcomes."

Notes to Editors

  1. The FCA’s Financial Lives cost of living survey is available from the FCA Press Office on request.

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