It’s Debt Awareness Week, and this year the theme is that debt can happen to anyone. The week is run by StepChange, a free UK debt help provider and winner in our Consumer Credit Awards. They help thousands of people every year to take back control of their finances and have over 30 years’ experience providing free debt advice, with expert advisors offering practical help and debt solutions. Charmaine Musonza from StepChange shares the debt charity’s thoughts on how free debt advice can be helpful and how to get the most out of it.

Debt can happen to anyone. Talking about money can be a daunting experience, but you don’t need to dive in headfirst – start as big or as small as you like. The most important thing is that you start. Debt advice can help you start to feel more in control of your situation and money, and get you on the path out of debt.

However, it isn’t uncommon for us at StepChange to hear incorrect assumptions about debt advice – for example, many think getting advice can adversely impact their credit score, while others assume they’ll be charged for advice. Meanwhile, imposter firms and IVA lead generators are misleading people into embarking on solutions that might not be appropriate.

Debt Awareness Week aims to increase awareness of problem debt, and the advice and solutions available to help. By bringing our money problems into the light, we could save ourselves – and each other – from falling into financial difficulty.

What should I do before seeking free debt advice?

Millions are struggling with money worries. That means you're not alone, and there is often a way forward.

Whether you choose to go through an online service or speak to an advisor on the phone, we recommend you prepare for your debt advice session as best you can.

It helps if you can gather details about:

  • The money you have coming in, for example your wages, benefits, pension payments or tax credits
  • Your regular living costs, such as your rent or mortgage, what you need to spend on food, travel, and insurance, among other things
  • How much money you owe and who you owe money to, including any interest, fees, and charges

If you don’t have everything to hand, don’t worry. You can pause your session and come back to it later, or switch between online and telephone advice to suit your needs.

How does debt advice from StepChange work?

To ensure the advice and solutions offered are correct and tailored to your situation, we’ll need to know about your financial situation.

  1. We’ll ask for information about your finances to get a full picture of your situation, helping you create a realistic monthly budget to see what you can afford to pay towards your debts, if anything
  2. You’ll receive tailored advice contained in a personal action plan, along with our recommendations for how to deal with the debt. We offer the widest range of solutions of any debt advice organisation in the UK, including repayment solutions such as debt management plans and insolvency solutions like debt relief orders. We also offer a range of debt solutions if you live in Scotland, and equity release if you’re eligible, among others.
  3. You’ll have all the information you need to make an informed decision on what to do next, and we can also help you to set your solution or give you further support.

If you get free, confidential debt advice, you can also check if you’re eligible for Breathing Space. This is a government scheme in England and Wales that can provide 60 days' respite from interest, fees, and court action to reduce stress and give you time to deal with your debts.

Our expert team of debt advisors can help you put together your application over the phone, or you can do this yourself online at a time that suits you.

Research shows that people who talk about money make better and less risky financial decisions, have stronger personal relationships, help their children form good lifetime money habits, and feel less stressed or anxious and more in control. We think those are all great reasons to start that conversation today.