31 August, 2021
StepChange Debt Charity has today released an update on the profile of its clients in July – and highlights that while the “steady state” position on household borrowing released today by the Bank of England might suggest that households are in the positive position of not needing to borrow, this masks the fact that there are still too many people having to turn to borrowing to make ends meet, and may suggest a cautious attitude to spending more generally.
July trends in StepChange client characteristics are mostly consistent with previous months. Nearly a third of clients are on Universal Credit, meaning that a significant proportion of the people who turn to StepChange for help are set to see their difficulties worsen when the temporary £20 a week uplift ends – a decision that the charity continues to believe should be reversed.
Richard Lane, Director of External Affairs at StepChange, said:
"Today’s data from the Bank shows that, in July, consumer borrowing was equalled by repayment of debt. In aggregate this perhaps paints a reasonably reassuring, if cautious, picture of the state of household finances. However, it masks the fact that, for some people, borrowing isn’t a discretionary activity, it’s the only way they can afford to put food on the table and keep the lights on.
“Among our own clients, we continue to see that many of those coming to us are from over-represented groups that have been negatively affected by the pandemic. We remain concerned that as support measures come to a close in the Autumn, financial pressures remain very real for many. The risk is of a two-speed recovery that leaves behind those who have been hardest hit – we strongly urge Government to pay attention to their needs.”
July saw a small rise in the proportion of home-owner StepChange clients facing increased difficulties, up from 12% of clients in June to 13% in July, alongside a similar increase from 18% to 19% in the proportion of clients with mortgages behind on mortgage payments.
The StepChange website had 306,000 visitors in July. The emergency funding page continued to be the single most-visited page, with 20,000 visitors.
Over 13,000 people completed a debt advice session with StepChange in July, a small increase on last month. There has been a small decrease in the amount of people citing Coronavirus as the reason for their debt (from 10% in June to 8% in July).
Credit cards were the most common type of credit debt among new StepChange clients, and the number of people coming to the charity with credit card debt showed a small increase in July, with 67% of new clients holding at least one credit card debt. Council tax arrears continue to be consistently the most common form of household bill arrears.
Around 3 in 10 new clients in July had a deficit budget, 3 in 10 were on Universal Credit, 3 in 5 were women, and 57% were under 40.
Notes to Editors
- The update on the profile of our clients can be found here
- The Bank of England’s Money & Credit release for July 2021 can be found here