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Debt research

Taking a closer look at the causes and consequences of problem debt.

We have helped over

7.5 million

people since 1993


Our research and reports examine the developing trends of problem debt in the UK and analyse the evidence to shape policy proposals.

Our work makes an evidence based case for:

  • Changing regulation
  • Changing law and practice
  • Reducing the risk and harm to financially vulnerable

Our latest research and reports

How consumer credit causes harm for people struggling with the cost of living

May 2024 - StepChange's new infographic explores why consumer credit can lead to poor outcomes for people struggling with living costs and what government, regulators and industry can do to help.

Read the report

 In work. But still in debt: Charting the rise of clients in full time work

April 2024

Many people across the UK in full-time employment still face problem debt and their employment hasn’t been able to shield them from this. The report highlights the potential inadequacy of existing safety nets, the prevalence of in-work debt problems, and gender-specific experiences. YouGov polling commissioned by StepChange reveals that in the UK, among those that are experiencing problem debt (9% and around 2.8 million people), around 52% are in full-time employment.

 Getting the Message: How testing and understanding client communications can help engage customers and improve customer outcomes

December 2023

Our Getting the Message report highlights the importance of digging deeper into what clients are experiencing so that we can look to improve outcomes for those clients.

Thought leadership

Our blog highlights the trends our team sees, and uses in-depth data, research and insights to suggest ways to improve the lives of society's financially vulnerable.

Visit the Medium blog for more

Media Centre

Our press office can comment, arrange briefings or interviews with experts, and help facilitate case study requests with clients who are willing to share their experience in the media.

Visit the Media Centre


Bearing the burden: Unravelling women’s debt dilemma

November 2023
In the past few years, there have been periods of economic uncertainty for households in the UK, which have left many people across the country financially vulnerable, irrespective of gender.

Joined up: supporting debt advice clients through strong referral partnerships

November 2023
This report, written by colleagues at the Personal Finance Research Centre, presents new evidence about debt advice referrals, which aims to stimulate discussion about how to ensure referrals work well for debt advice clients across a complex ecosystem.

The report contains analysis of StepChange debt advice data and interviews with StepChange colleagues including debt advisors, and other sector colleagues

Private renters twice as likely to be in problem debt as general population

May 2023
StepChange clients are more likely to be private renters than any other housing tenure. Increasingly, these clients report an additional vulnerability, such as poor mental or physical health, or a disability. Over half (52%) of clients who are in vulnerable circumstances rent privately.

Gambling and problem debt

October 2022
Exploring the link between gambling and problem debt.

Mixed messages

September 2022
Why creditor communications to people in financial difficulty need to offer a clearer, better route to help.

One year of Breathing Space: Our initial findings

July 2022
People who accessed Breathing Space through StepChange in its first year of operation were more likely to complete advice, enter a debt solution, and achieve more positive wellbeing outcomes than other clients, according to a new survey of StepChange Debt Charity clients.

Hardship by design? How to end unaffordable debt deductions

June 2022
This report is based on analysis of budget data of clients on Universal Credit with an overpayment debt. Assessing how appropriate the current DWP deduction rates are – 15% for out of work claimants and 25% for those in-work earning more than £60 a month.

Client outcomes during Covid 19: Understanding client outcomes during the Covid 19 pandemic

March 2022
Our latest report compares the experience of clients who sought advice before the pandemic to those who sought advice during the pandemic.

Problem debt and the credit safety net

January 2022
Over four million people in Great Britain struggling to keep up with bills and credit repayments have recently borrowed to make ends meet.

The true cost of tax credit overpayments: A fairer approach

September 2021
The Department for Work and Pensions should be using best practice, such as affordability assessments, to decide if people can pay back the debt. Instead, they take deductions from Universal Credit payments, which pushes people into deeper hardship.

Stormy Weather: Covid and Debt

April 2021
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK, we have monitored the impacts of the pandemic on personal finances and problem debt. In January 2021, we commissioned updated public polling to better understand how households have coped during the winter.

The coronavirus effect on household finances

December 2020
We used data from our clients to understand how the coronavirus pandemic has affected personal finances in the UK, from April to October 2020.

Preventing a Covid-19 debt crisis

November 2020
We commissioned national polling to understand how coronavirus has affected personal finances six months into the pandemic in the UK.

Coronavirus and personal debt: a financial recovery strategy for households

June 2020
Our latest briefing reveals that a personal debt tsunami of £6 billion is already being stored up among some 4.6 million households and, if left unchecked, is set to worsen.

Action needed to prevent a council tax enforcement ‘cliff-edge’ following coronavirus

May 2020
We ask the Government to do more to protect people who’ve fallen behind on council tax bills as a result of the current crisis.

Paths to Recovery: understanding client outcomes 15 months after debt advice

March 2020
This report outlines the latest findings from our client outcomes project, focussing on the outcomes of clients at 15 months after debt advice. The report also revisits key measures discussed in our first report, ‘Measuring Client Outcomes’, published in 2019.

Flaws in social security are causing debt and destitution

January 2020
Our report shows that inadequate social support is causing hardship and risks causing problem debt.

Our latest research highlights the real cost of Christmas

December 2019
Survey results show that a third of Brits turn to credit to get them through the festive season.

Life happens: financial resilience in a world of uncertainty

July 2019
What situations trigger people's spiral of financial difficulties, and why are so many people falling into problem debt as a result?

Red Card: subprime credit cards and problem debt

July 2019
4 million people in the UK have a subprime credit card. Our Red Card report examines the relationship between subprime credit cards and problem debt.

Hardship now, or hardship later?

June 2019
Our joint briefing with The Trussell Trust shows that Advance Payments – the loans people can apply for while they wait at least five weeks for Universal Credit – push people into hardship and aren't the solution to the five week wait.

Measuring Client Outcomes: Why debt advice matters

February 2019
Since 2017, we've been piloting a project which regularly measures the outcomes of our clients in problem debt. The report looks at the process of conducting this research and our initial findings.

Locked Out

November 2018
Our briefing looks at how our clients' problem debt affected their access to housing and the security, quality and affordability of their homes, at a time they were trying to stabilise their finances or repay their debts.

Breaking the Link

June 2018
Our briefing looks at the financial circumstances of our clients with vulnerabilities. In 2017, we supported almost 29,500 people who had an additional vulnerability on top of their financial difficulties.

Behind on the basics

May 2018
Our briefing looks at households in arrears on their essential bills. 140,000 people who received debt advice from us in 2017 were behind on at least one of their essential household bills.


Affordable alternatives to high cost credit

March 2018
Our research looks at what sort of affordable credit can help low income households, so they don't have to turn to high cost credit.

Stuck in the red: Millions can't get out of their overdrafts

December 2017
Our new briefing looks at the impact persistent overdraft debt is having in the UK. Our clients to share their experiences about how their lives are affected by overdraft debt.

The problems of third party deductions

September 2017
Our new briefing looks at how third party deductions from benefits can make it difficult for families to pay for essentials, force them to turn to credit to keep on top of bills, and cause hardship.

Saving safety net report

July 2017
This paper summarises and responds to Pension Policy Institute (PPI) research commissioned by StepChange Debt Charity analysing the impact on retirement income of creating an accessible savings fund within a pension.

The high cost of credit: The need for more affordable alternatives to high cost credit

July 2017
Our new report finds that over a million people in Britain have to rely on high cost credit to cover the cost of essentials. There is a need for clear and coordinated action to build more accessible and affordable credit alternatives for the most financially vulnerable.

DAS survey results: 2017

May 2017
We surveyed over 450 clients who are paying off their debts through the DAS scheme in Scotland.

Payday loans: The next generation

November 2016
In the latest of our statistics yearbook series, the Statistics Mid-Yearbook provides an update on personal debt trends for the first half of 2016.

Falling into the red: How overdrafts can lead to problem debt

October 2016
Regularly having to go into an overdraft, or over an overdraft limit, and being hit by unarranged overdraft charges can lead to and exacerbate financial difficulties for many financially vulnerable households.

Boosting lower income savings

September 2016
Our briefing discusses how HTS should be implemented and what more can be done to boost lower-income saving. It contains the results of a survey of our clients on the provisions of the HTS scheme and their ongoing savings needs.

Creditor and debt collector conduct: What's making debt problems worse?

July 2016
Unfair treatment from creditors holds back those in problem debt. Bad lending decisions, poor product design and aggressive debt collection practices can make severe debt problems more likely, more harmful and harder to deal with.

Council Tax Debt in Scotland: A growing problem

March 2016
Council Tax arrears and how these are addressed are one of the fastest growing debt problems that we've seen in the past five years. This report examines the data behind Scottish clients seeking our help with their Council Tax arrears in order to get a clearer picture of the extent of the problem and how policy solutions could make a difference.

The Credit Safety Net: Consumer credit trends and problem debt

February 2016
Our report looks at consumer credit trends in Britain, the use of credit as a safety net and how this can lead to personal debt problems. It also highlights strategies and solutions to address the use of unsustainable credit and the resulting financial difficulties.

Navigating the New Normal: Income shocks and financial difficulty

December 2015
Despite a steady economic recovery and low headline unemployment, 2.6 million people are in severe problem debt and 8.8 million people are in moderate financial difficulty. Income shocks are tipping millions of people into problem debt.

Held Back by Debt: How Britain's lack of financial resilience is tipping people into a debt trap

September 2015
People will always face ups and downs that they have to adjust to, but recent trends in the jobs market, with fewer working people in traditional permanent, full-time, steady-wage jobs, mean more people experience more frequent shocks and changes as part of everyday life.

Becoming a Nation of Savers: Keeping families out of debt by helping them prepare for a rainy day

August 2015
Having accessible savings helps families avoid problem debt, promotes financial inclusion and leads to wider social benefits regarding employment, healthcare, and children's life prospects, but families in the UK are facing a crisis when it comes to saving for a rainy day.

Council Tax Arrears: The impact of aggressive enforcement action

March 2015
Since 2010, StepChange Debt Charity has seen a 372% rise in the number of people we've helped with Council Tax arrears. Only payday loans grew faster as a client debt across this period.

An Action Plan on Problem Debt: How the UK Government can reduce the £8.3 billion social cost of problem debt

January 2015
The British economy is recovering, but many families are still waiting to see their household finances return to a genuinely steady footing. Many are living on the edge, with 21 million people in Britain struggling with their bills.

The Social Cost of Problem Debt in the UK

October 2014
Problem debt costs the UK £8.3bn through the damage it causes to family life, mental and physical health, productivity and employment prospects and costs to the welfare state, the NHS, local government and other agencies.

The Debt Trap: The impact of debt on families with children

May 2014
Despite millions of children living in families with problem debt, very little research has explored the impact it has on them. Our report, written alongside The Children's Society, lifts the lid on the devastating impact debt can have on children.

Life on the Edge: A report on the state of the nation's family finances

April 2014
From the 8.8 million people over indebted to the £1.4 trillion personal debt we British households owe, debt has become a major media debate. Our report looks at the factors that are driving people into financial difficulty, and which groups are most likely to be living on the edge.

StepChange Debt Charity Consumer Debt and Money Report Q3 2012 (pdf)

22 January 2013

Working Households' Experiences of Debt Problems (pdf)

21 November 2012

To access reports produced under our previous name, Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS), please contact us.

Personal debt statistics

Exploring how demographic and debt information of StepChange clients refelcts larger trends in society, the causes of financial hardship and potential solutions.

Read our debt research

Monthly client data reports

This series of regular reports looks at the demographics and debt information of clients who received debt advice or used any of our services in the previous month.

Read the reports

Policy and campaigns

Advocating for evidence-backed financial reform across the UK, working with parliaments, briefing ministers, and responding to consultations.

Go to policy and campaigns

Contact our Policy Team: