Debt Awareness Week in difficult times

By Richard Lane, Director of External Affairs

Today we kick off our annual Debt Awareness Week. It would be fair to say it isn’t going to go as we planned.

The week is an important annual moment for us to raise awareness of free, independent debt advice and the help that’s out there for people struggling with their finances.

However, when we started planning this campaign back in October, we couldn’t have even begun to imagine the current situation that the country finds itself in. Right now, it feels as if everyone is acutely aware of debt. But what they may be less aware of is that help is available, and where to find it.

People are waiting too long to get help

Before coronavirus, millions of people and families across the country were already struggling with their finances and worried about their problem debt. We knew that many of them waited too long to get the help that they need.

But today we know that the coronavirus crisis has had a profound impact frighteningly quickly on many people’s finances.

People are understandably anxious about the future and how they will support their families. We’ve already seen sectors like events and hospitality hit particularly hard. The orders to social distance mean pubs, bars, and theatres are closed. Staff are being sent home or, worse, laid off entirely.

At this time, when people are focussed on the immediate problem of how to support themselves, their family and their friends, we’ve debated long and hard whether now is the time to run Debt Awareness Week.

People need financial help now more than ever

But it is for all of these reasons that we have decided that we will proceed with Debt Awareness Week.

We know that during times of crisis, people will look to us for help.

We’ve already seen huge amounts of people coming to us looking for urgent advice on how to talk to their creditors, what benefits they might be entitled to or what their statutory sick pay entitled might be. Indeed, last Friday (20 March) was the busiest day ever on the StepChange website.

Our coronavirus hub has already been visited by over 35,000 users, and is the most viewed content on our website.

Because of this we know people need help. They need information to help them now. And we know that they need it from organisations like StepChange.

Debt Awareness Week this week

So today we start our annual Debt Awareness Week. We know for many people who are anxious and uncertain, they might not be ready for full debt advice or support yet. But we want them to know that we’re here.

We’ll be signposting to a broad range of online advice and support — from debt advice, budgeting tips, advice on what to do if you’re made redundant and our excellent benefit entitlement checker (updated to reflect the current situation).

And we’ll also be continuing to work with the government to ensure that the measures they are putting in place support those who need it. Last week we published an emergency rescue plan [PDF] for families and small businesses who need help. This week we’ll continue to raise awareness of what our clients are telling us and the support that they need now.

So please look out for our content this week. Share across your social media so that people who need help during these unprecedented times know that we are here for them.

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StepChange Debt Charity

StepChange Debt Charity

We provide free, impartial debt advice and solutions to anyone struggling with debt problems in the UK.