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An action plan on problem debt

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How the UK government can reduce the £8.3 billion social cost of problem debt

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, 18 million worried about making their income last until payday, and some 2.9 million people are in severe problem debt.

Many more families could find themselves falling into problem debt as they struggle to deal with shocks and changes without resorting to credit unsustainably. This leads people into a ‘debt trap’ where stress and anxiety compounds people’s difficulties and makes it harder for them to get back on their feet.

The consequences of debt – lost jobs, homes, broken relationships, mental health and support needs – leads to social costs of £8.3 billion.

The Government therefore has an opportunity to offer better help for people in debt get back on their feet and contributing to the economy, and prevent the next generation from falling into the same trap.

21 million are struggling with debt graphic

View our infographic for more of the statistics contained within our Action Plan.

We want to see the Government rise to this challenge by committing to a Debt Action Plan to ensure families come out of the next five years more resilient and better able to weather shocks to their finances. The Government should commit to:

  1. Ensure that every family has £1,000 in savings to cover a sudden cost or income shock.
  2. Ensure all low income households can access low cost credit products.
  3. Scale up free debt advice so that it reaches the 1.4 million people who urgently need advice but aren’t getting it.
  4. Ensure everyone dealing with problem debt gets the protection against interest, charges, enforcement and collections they need.
  5. Protect children and families from the harm of aggressive debt collection practices.
  6. Ensure debt solutions are fit for purpose, and do not have a disproportionate impact on people’s life chances.

Together, these policies will help people already in difficulty and those on the edge of their finances from falling into the debt trap.

Read our Action Plan report

Download StepChange Debt Charity’s action plan on problem debt (PDF)

The action plan draws on economic forecasting from CEBR and statistical modelling of the impact of savings on debt prevention by Select Statistical Services. CEBR collaborated with StepChange Debt Charity on a 2015 economic analysis report (PDF)

You can also download the Select Statistical Services savings report (PDF).

Read the press release announcing our action plan on problem debt.

Read our Safe Harbours (PDF) briefing for more information about our proposal for new protection from interest, charges and enforcement for people in problem debt.

Read our Council Tax Debt report on how too many people face unaffordable repayments, tough enforcement and bailiff action when they fall behind on their council tax bills.

Contact our policy team

Email us for more information on our debt research and statistics across the UK.

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