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Our comment on Help to Save

12 September, 2018

Following a successful pilot, we're pleased that the government has today announced that the new Help to Save scheme is now available across the whole of UK to eligible lower income working households.

When people turn to us for debt advice, 98% of them have no savings whatsoever. We've long called for realistic mechanisms to enable more households to save – and in previous research have estimated that if every household in Britain had £1,000 in accessible savings, this would reduce the number of people in problem debt by half a million.

Under the Help to Save scheme, delivered through NS&I, eligible lower income households can save up to £50 a month, and after two years get a bonus of 50% of the highest balance they achieve during that period, with a subsequent additional bonus at the end of four years. From the perspective of our clients, this type of saving may be particularly helpful and realistic for those who are becoming debt-free, to help build their financial resilience for the future.

Phil Andrew, CEO of StepChange Debt Charity, commented:

“98% of our clients have no savings at all at the point they turn to us, and only 1% have £1,000 or more. Yet we know that having £1,000 in rainy day savings virtually halves the risk of falling into problem debt, so helping lower income working households to build savings should be an important policy goal.

“We campaigned for Help to Save and it is a good scheme. Yet it will only bring benefits if people actually use it. The government’s impact assessment suggested only one in seven of those eligible are likely to use Help to Save in its first two to three years of operation. It’s vital for the government to make a real effort to promote the scheme if it is to have the desired result, and for all of us who work with eligible households to support that effort.”

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