Maureen’s Matters - We can’t be complacent with debt

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Debt can cripple people whether it is long standing mortgage arrears that threaten a family’s home life, or essential bills that slowly pile up at the front door.

Debt charity StepChange works to solve individual debt and has identified trends across all of Scotland, including Aberdeen South and North Kincardine.

Figures from StepChange show that average outstanding debt in my constituency stood at £16,651.22 in 2010. By 2015, this had reduced to £10,677.24 – but the debt was different. Rather than running into credit card debt, the average person in debt is in arrears on essential bills such as the mortgage, utilities and council tax.

The reason for accruing debt has moved from people buying things that they would like but could do without, to people falling into debt so that they can stay in their homes and keep them heated.

Since 2010, around 40 per cent of people who go to StepChange are in mortgage arrears. In 2010 this averaged out at £2448.78, but has now significantly reduced to £990.67 in 2015. Across Aberdeen and North Kincardine, there are more people in mortgage arrears, but the amount that they are in debt has gone down dramatically.

Although there remains a large debt problem in Scotland, it is widely recognised that the Scottish Government’s efforts have assisted in helping those in debt. Scotland has the only statutory debt arrangement scheme in the UK – providing a six week breathing space that freezes interest rates and charges while a debt repayment schedule is worked out.

And StepChange is an example of an excellent charity that can significantly help if you do find yourself in debt. It stands by its claim that 97 per cent of its clients who enter debt repayment solutions do successfully pay off their debt. If you need help with debt, do contact them.

Overall debt in Scotland has dropped over time but we cannot afford to be complacent – circumstances change.