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People were recording lower levels of debt on average by the end of 2021 as average income and surplus levels increased, according to statistics from StepChange.

The charity reported that fewer clients had credit cards and overdraft debts and feedback from their clients demonstrated that drop in average debt level. 

However, these pleasing figures from 2021 look set to alter for the current year – as the cost of living soars. StepChange notes that more of their clients are having children, a number of whom end up becoming single parents, and this – coupled with the staggering rise of inflation in recent months – will leave many on the edge of a financial precipice. 

We understand business owners will have business financial matters to contend with but we also understand that business owners are people too. While a business owner might have business debts to deal with, they will also need to consider their personal financial situation. Some people will have families to also support. The data below demonstrates a range of statistics that cover StepChange’s roster from 2021. 

Personal Characteristics 


-53% of clients in 2021 were in employment, increasing from 52% in 2020

-4 in 5 new StepChange clients in 2021 were between the ages of 25 and 59

-42% of StepChange clients in 2021 were over 40-years-old, compared with 34% in 2019

-59% of clients were taking some form of benefit home with them in 2021

-For clients in receipt of benefits, 35% took universal credit while 33% were receiving child benefit – the two highest percentages on the list

-37% of clients were in full-time employment (36% in 2020) and only 24% were unemployed (18% in 2020)

This highlights the diversity in circumstances. More clients with debt were in full-time employment as opposed to being unemployed.

Geographical debt 


-London and the North West provided StepChange with the most clients in 2021 (14% each)

-Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales (1%, 5% and 5% respectively) made up the least amount of 2021 StepChange clientele; the North East and East of -England made up the least amount of StepChange clients in England (both 6%)

-32 people per 10,000 were clients of StepChange in the United Kingdom

StepChange generally has more clients within England anyway so you shouldn’t reach too much into the difference in figures with devolved nations. 


Different types of arrears


-Council tax (37% of clients) proved to be the biggest cause of concern for those in arrears with an average amount owed of £1,578

-Mortgages came with the highest amount owed in arrears on average (£4,497), with 19% saying that it was their main arrears problem

-Mortgage arrears have increased by nearly £1,000 since 2020 (£3,518)

-The average level of arrears per-client increased by £213

The biggest cause of concern has been council tax, however, mortgages have the highest average price among clients. General arrears debt did increase on the previous year and you would expect this to continue. 


Unsecured Debt Statistics


-The average level of unsecured debt between clients was down on 2020, dropping from £12,644 to £11,176

-This figure has dropped by nearly 17% since 2017 (£13,280)

-Credit cards contributed to 66% of unsecured debt in 2021 (£6,853)

-The 66% figure is actually 3% lower than the figure in 2019 (69%)

-Personal loans averaged the highest amount of any unsecured debt in 2021 (£7,503)

-Credit card debt is still an issue for unsecured debts. However, the fact that gambling companies have now stopped accepting credit card payments is a big help in combatting those issues. 




Ultimately, the challenges that people are facing in 2022 mean that StepChange statistics could look decidedly different in twelve months time. The rise in the cost of living has been astronomical. 

If you are worried about your own personal debt situation, our compassionate experts can help. They specialise in business debt but they also have a wealth of experience when it comes to dealing with personal debt solutions.


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