The stigma around being in debt is causing Brits to hide an enormous £8.5 billion in cards, loans and overdrafts from their families.
A survey carried out by debt management company Lowell in March found that as many as 7 in 10 people don’t discuss their debts with anyone, often because they are worried about what others will think.
More than half of those surveyed (53%) said they were are too embarrassed to reveal their debt, while two in five people said they kept their debt secret because they didn’t want to be a burden to their friends and family.
The report comes amid debt charity Stepchange’s annual Debt Awareness week, which encourages people to talk more openly about debt.
In its report, Lowell urged anyone feeling “unease, pressure or stress” to reach out and talk to someone.
According to the company’s research, despite the common belief (among 25% of debtors) that speaking about debt does nothing to help the debtor, the evidence shows that the vast majority of people (82%) feel better about their situation- and more able to do something about it- after speaking to someone about their problem debts.
Over the last 12 months, many people have found themselves struggling financially, and some may be in debt for the first time. Therefore, Debt Awareness Week is even more important than ever this yearsaid the managing director of Lowell, John Pears.
There’s no need to feel embarrassed, and having an initial discussion with a friend, family member, or expert is the first step to feeling financially stable
According to Citizens Advice, an estimated 6 million adults have fallen behind on at least one household bill since the start of the pandemic.
Key workers and people who were already facing hardships at the start of the pandemic are more likely to have fallen into debt, says the charity network.
In November, Stepchange warned of a ‘personal debt crisis’ emerging as a result of Coronavirus, with tens of thousands of adults reporting skipping meals or rationing their utilities to help manage their debt.
Director of external affairs at Stepchange, Richard Lane, said:
This Debt Awareness Week, we’re focusing on breaking down the stigma that surrounds debt, opening up the conversation and encouraging people to take #TheFirstStep towards resolving their money worries, With the week also marking a year since lockdown began in England and Wales, and 2.5 million people facing a financial crisis due to the impacts of coronavirus, it’s more important than ever that households across the country know where to get help. You are not alone.
You can help this week by spreading the word, talking to your friends about any worries they may have, and, if you are struggling with your finances right now, by taking #TheFirstStep towards your financial recovery by getting in contact with StepChange for free, expert debt advice