Debt charity StepChange has published its Statistics Yearbook for 2018, which shows that the number of people contacting it for help with debt issues rose by 6% when compared to 2017. The charity received 657,930 new contacts in 2018, up from 619,946 in the previous year.

The Yearbook also comments on some of the demographic changes StepChange is seeing when it examines which groups of people are most likely to make contact. The biggest increase in contacts has come from single parent families – in 2018 23% of those who sought advice from StepChange were single parents, up from 21.5% in 2017, and this figure has steadily increased every year since 2014, when the equivalent figure was 18%. Single parents comprise just 6% of the total UK population, so this group are massively over-represented when it comes to debt issues.

Couples without children comprise 36% of the population yet make just 14% of the calls to StepChange. 26% of the contacts were from couples with children and 37% of StepChange clients were single adults with no children, and here these percentages broadly reflect the make-up of the population as a whole.

The three most common reasons people contacted StepChange in 2018 was:

  • Unemployment or redundancy (17%)
  • Injury or illness (16%)
  • Other factors leading to a reduced income (17%)

Budgeting skills may have improved, as only 11% thought their debt problems were related to poor budgeting, when this figure was 20% as recently as 2016.

The average age of a new StepChange client during 2018 was 40, and their clients appear to be getting younger, with two thirds of them now aged under 40, compared to 51% in 2014. Younger people are also much more likely to have payday loan debt, and 26% of new female clients and 35% of new male clients aged under 25 said they had at least one of these loans. Only 3% of those aged 60 or over and 10% of those aged 40 to 59 had a payday loan at the time they contacted StepChange.

Despite the rise in the numbers making contact about payday loans, StepChange clients are most likely to be in debt on credit cards (68% of new clients) and personal loans and overdrafts (47%).

Amongst clients making contact about their household bills, 30% said they were in arrears on their council tax.

82% of those making contact said they were renting their home, when in the general population only 35% are renters; and 60% of all new 2018 StepChange clients were women.

In addition to their debt issues, at least one additional vulnerability could be identified in 36% of new contacts. These other issues might have included: mental health or physical health problems, learning difficulties and vision or hearing impairments.

StepChange CEO Phil Andrew said:

“The number of people who contacted us last year works out at one every 48 seconds – a record level of demand. That’s the scale of the debt problem in the UK, and our advisors hear every day the devastating impact that debt can have on people.

“While a huge amount has been done to support people in problem debt and reform credit markets, our client insight shows that there’s still much more for government, policy makers and creditors to consider.

“In line with the strategy we launched last summer, we’re working flat out to be able to double the number of people we can help over the next few years. While debt can strike at any age, on average our clients are getting younger.

“It’s important that policymakers work to help turn the tide and prevent debt becoming an inevitable rite of passage for young adults.”

The information shown in this article was correct at the time of publication. Articles are not routinely reviewed and as such are not updated. Please be aware the facts, circumstances or legal position may change after publication of the article