Money Matters: Getting help with debt

In this week’s Money Matters column, Wrekin’s Debt and Energy manager Dan Bebbington offers his advice on accessing help with debt.

Debt can be a huge cause of worry and stress, and sadly it’s a problem more people are now facing as a result of the cost-of-living crisis.

One of those people was Wrekin Housing Group customer Kerry Gassama, from Telford, who bravely shared her story last week during Debt Awareness Week. You can read it here.

Kerry’s story – falling behind on bills after having to take time off work, taking out loans, not being able to afford the repayments – is one we hear too often.

As Kerry described, owing money you can’t afford to repay can take a huge toll on your mental health.

In fact, Debt charity StepChange estimates that one in four people living with debt have a mental health condition, and lists this as one of the top five barriers stopping people from asking for help.

However, it’s important to know that a debt advisor will be non-judgemental and will tailor their support to your needs. They can also work with other organisations to get you additional help if required.

Another top reason people don’t access debt advice is because they don’t realise what support is available – especially if they have never needed it before.

A debt advisor is an impartial expert who can look at your finances and help you to understand your debt, work out a budget to see what you can afford to repay, and advise you on what to prioritise.

They will also be able to liaise with your creditors, and may be able to help you access grants or signpost you to other services.

If appropriate, they can also recommend debt solutions to help clear the money you owe.

This brings us onto another of the top barriers to debt advice – worry about the impact on your credit file.

If you’re struggling to make repayments, your credit file could already be affected, and this will get worse if problems persist.

Simply seeking debt advice will not affect your credit file. Some debt solutions might have an impact and will stay on file for a number of years, but this will be explained clearly before any decisions are made.

StepChange also lists a lack of time as a reason many people delay in seeking help. That is why the charity offers online support 24/7.

Once you take that first step, there is no pressure and you can take things at your own pace.

The final barrier to ask for debt support is shame and not wanting their loved ones to find out.

Please know there is no shame in being in debt – it can happen to anyone. Anyone working in debt advice does this because they want to help, so you can be assured there will be no judgement.

In fact, StepChange says 92% of people it has helped wish they came forward sooner.

It’s also important to remember that any advice you receive will be completely confidential.

If you can relate to Kerry’s story, or have any concerns about your debt, there is free, non-judgemental support available from charities including StepChange, National Debtline, and Citizens Advice.

Wrekin Housing Group customers can also contact our Money Matters team.

26th March 2024