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Third of UK adults struggling financially amid debt advice ‘chasm’

Third of UK adults struggling financially amid debt advice ‘chasm’
Matt Browning
Written By:
Matt Browning

A third of UK adults are in need of or on the brink of needing debt advice, a money service reveals.

More than eight million people currently need debt advice, while a further 12 million are struggling to keep up with bills and money they’ve borrowed, according to the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS).

However, out of the 22,000 respondents surveyed, only less than half (44%) of those who needed financial help sought professional advice for the money they owed.

It is also the younger generation suffering from debt the most, as more than half (55%) who need help are aged between 18 and 34-years-old. This is despite that cohort only representing 27% of the population, using the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) data.

Within the mix of Gen X and millennials requiring help for debt, it is lower-paid and temporary workers who require financial help the most too.

Younger workers are most vulnerable to financial struggles

Three-quarters of that age group earn less than £30,000, compared to 49% of the population, and just over a quarter (27%) are in temporary jobs, on zero-hour and fixed-term contracts. Whereas, just over a tenth (13%) of older workers are in such employment.

The debt advice ‘chasm’ is created by those who need help and are either not receiving it or not seeking help in the first instance. That situation has been attributed to a mixture of barriers including “fear, embarrassment and people being unsure where or how to access it” MaPS said.

Further, a quarter (26%) of those needing help took over 12 months to seek advice from the moment when they first struggled financially, while 12% waited over three years.

In the UK, the average outstanding balance stands at £1,160 – an accumulated rise of 12.5% in a year. This rising debt is contributed by the fact a fifth of cardholders make the minimum repayment amount each month, a separate study from Compare the Market highlighted.

‘No-one says they got debt advice too soon’

Anna Hall, head of debt operations at the MaPS, said: “These figures show the chasm between how many people urgently need debt advice and the number actually taking it. This means millions are currently battling on alone without the help they so desperately need.

“Debt problems can have a corrosive effect on someone’s relationships, self-confidence, and mental health, and every expense can ratchet up the anxiety. It can eventually lead to the disconnection of utilities, legal action, and even homelessness.”

Hall added: “Many people wish they’d acted faster, but no one ever says they got debt advice too soon.”

If you are struggling to deal with debt, there is a Government-backed service called Money Helper that offers impartial advice.