Debt is a word many would dare not speak. But it’s a fact of life — never more so than now. Personal finances have been hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic and many people are borrowing money to cope. So, what happens when we start talking honestly and empathetically about debt?
The thought of debt sends many into a spiral of shame. We don’t want to think about it, let alone talk about it. People might feel that it reflects their moral standing and consider it a failure but that’s an incredibly outdated notion. Debt isn’t a reflection of a person’s character, it’s a reflection of modern life. As a society, we need to listen without judgement and talk without fear when it comes to money. It’s okay to be in debt. It’s normal to be in debt. And there is support for those facing financial difficulty.
Debt can happen to anyone for any reason. Redundancy is a prevailing issue, likely to contribute to incurring debt as time goes on. But unexpected costs are also a factor — things break down, funerals must be planned, relationships end. The sooner we can accept that debt is a fact of life, the easier it will be to talk about.
The family in debt
Families falling below the minimum income standard (MIS) are already facing the pressure of making ends meet. They might fall below MIS because they don’t receive a living wage, work part-time, or aren’t able to work at all. And with the effects of the pandemic on people’s ability to keep a job, it isn’t unusual for families to be struggling financially. Many parents have had to home-school their children and this comes with its own costs. The price of internet, lunches and perhaps of a computer add up quickly.
(Lunches + internet + computer) – wages = debt?
On top of that, not being able to work to support their kids’ education is an added strain on the family budget. Times are tougher now than ever before for many families in our community and it’s no wonder why so many are facing debt.
This is just one of the reasons why we’re launching a community newsletter for parents. This quarterly update will form part of our support for parents in the engineering community through the challenges they might be facing in life.
Talking about debt is the first step to getting out of it. One way to encourage people to talk more openly is through our partnership with national debt charity StepChange. A new, streamlined referral process allows Foothold community members to access free expert advice on the phone, text or e-mail at a convenient time. According to StepChange research, this new process increases the likelihood of someone completing the debt advice process from 5% to 50%.
Our Services and Development manager Denice Houslin said: “We’ve always pointed community members in the direction of StepChange when they needed help with financial difficulties. However, having financial difficulties can cause a lot of anxiety and stress for people and it is often hard to reach out for support. This new partnership will make it easier for us to support members to overcome any initial concerns about contacting StepChange and hopefully reassure them, that by allowing us to help them make the first step, difficulties can start to be managed in a way that reduces the anxiety they may be feeling.”
StepChange Debt Charity is the UK’s leading debt advice charity. They help over 630,000 people each year deal with their money worries and take back control of their lives. Their service is free, impartial and they never judge. Every client receives expert personalised advice to help them deal with their debts. Whether you need debt advice, a way to get back on track after the financial effects of coronavirus, or support with budgeting or managing persistent debt, StepChange can help. They’ll look at your individual circumstances and recommend a course of action.
You can read more about our debt and benefits advice and sign up to our parents newsletter here.