Woman looking at bills

Money Advice Outcomes team backs #talkmoneyworries campaign

 

The Improvement Service’s Money Advice Outcomes Project is supporting the Money Advice Service campaign #talkmoneyworries and the call for family and friends to spot the signs that people close to them might be experiencing problem debts.

 

  • One in six adults at risk of crisis debt
  • Yet less than one in five people access help for their debts
  • New study identifies the early warning signs that friends and family might be experiencing problem debt

 

Debt and money worries are often seen as a taboo subject in the UK so it is time to get people talking about their money worries and get them to advice earlier to prevent their debts becoming unmanageable.

 

Around eight million people in the UK regularly miss bill re-payments or feel overwhelmed by their debts. Of those, fewer than one in five seek advice to help their situation. This means a worrying 10% of the population could be suffering in silence with serious money problems, with young adults, people who rent their homes, large families and single parents noticeably at higher risk. Friends and family could make all the difference to break the silence and encourage them to get help.

 

New findings about the symptoms of problem debt by the Money Advice Service found that debt problems often build up over time so people may not be fully aware of the full extent of their financial difficulties until they become a crisis. Identifying the signs and getting help early will prevent these issues becoming critical.

 

The signs someone is experiencing problem debt are often difficult to spot. They may be hidden due to embarrassment, to protect friends and family from the situation or because they ether don’t realise or want to confront the full extent of the problem. Signs will vary for each person. However, there are a range of physical, emotional and behavioural symptoms which can give friends and family subtle clues about behaviour which seems out of character.

 

These signs could include:

 

  • They have been in debt in the past
  • They have had a recent life event – an event that has resulted in a loss of income or higher spending, for example having a baby, being made redundant, illness, divorce or a death in the family
  • They are living beyond their means or over spending – they always seem to have the latest ‘must have’ items although they don’t have the income to cover this
  • They seem anxious, withdrawn or depressed – they have reduced time socialising, they are avoiding friends
  • They may seem more secretive – starting to hide issues and avoiding talking about finances
  • They have changed their spending habits – either reducing spending (e.g going on fewer holidays or eating out less) or overspending (spending without a plan for repayment for example putting luxury items on credit)
  • They seem tired or are having trouble sleeping
  • Their weight has changed suddenly – either increasing or decreasing

 

There are three simple steps that friends and family can take to help someone who might be experiencing financial difficulties:

 

  1. Start a conversation – Use your own personal experiences to help get to the bottom of their financial worries, make sure you keep the conversation neutral and non-judgmental
  2. Talk to them about free debt advice – Help your friend or family member to understand that free debt advice will help them get their finances back on track. Ask them to make a commitment to seek free debt advice. You could also offer to help them by going along with them
  3. Use the Money Advice Service – Encourage them to use the debt health check to work out the best option to help them resolve their money worries and find free debt advice in their area

 

Debt advice can have a massive impact on people’s lives. Within three months of receiving advice, 65% are either repaying their debts or have repaid them in full. 73% feel less stressed about dealing with their finances, two thirds (62%) are sleeping better, over half (55%), reported better physical health and 69% said their relationships improved.

 

Colin Mair, CEO, Improvement Service, said:  "Problem debt can affect anyone and the Money Advice Service’s research shows it affects more people than we might think. But the warning signs are there – from appearing anxious or unusually secretive to changes to spending habits or sleeping patterns. We encourage our staff and customers to talk to anyone who they think might have money worries and help them to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The phrase ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ has never been more true."

 

Sheila Wheeler, Director of Debt Advice at the Money Advice Service said: “With one in six people in the UK at risk of a debt crisis, there is a high chance that someone close to us may be struggling with money troubles. We are calling on friends and family to watch out for the signs someone might need help and to support them to access free debt advice as soon as possible.

 

“For people who are experiencing financial difficulties, we want you to know that help is available and you do not need to suffer alone. Friends and family will want to help and support you. Free debt advice is available now and will help support you in getting your finances back on track before your money worries become a bigger issue. Use the Debt test to find out how you can resolve your debts and find free, impartial help in your area.”

 

For more information visit www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/debt