Debt levels surge among single parents

Posted by Michael Bolt in Dealing with Debt on 7 April 2015 - Michael worked as a Credit Analyst at checkmyfile until 2015

The number of single parents who have sought help with debt problems has surged in the past two years, according to figures released by StepChange, the debt advice charity.

The charity said that 62,259 single parents contacted it for advice and help in 2014, representing a 105% increase on the number who sought help in 2012.

Wider economic trends, including the increase in the cost of living, along with wage stagnation, have hit families where only one adult is likely to be employed, often on a part-time basis in order to fit around childcare needs.

Along with single parents, the under-25s were the group found to be mostly likely affected by debt problems.

Single parents were found to be more likely to be in arrears on essential bills than others, including their rent, council tax and energy bills. It was also found that single parents were more likely to have debt on high cost credit forms, such as catalogue accounts and store cards.

Overall, single parents accounted for 18.3% of the cases handled by StepChange, despite making up 10.6% of the population. As a group, they were found to be disproportionately likely to seek advice.

Of the single parents who contacted the charity for assistance in 2014, 31% of single parent clients were found to be in arrears on their council tax bill. Similar proportions, 30% and 32% respectively, were in arrears on their water bill and mortgage.

The Chief Executive of StepChange, Mike O’Connor, said that single parent families face a ‘unique set of vulnerabilities’ and are disproportionately represented amongst StepChange clients. He called on the next government to tackle problem debt, an issue that costs the UK economy £8bn a year, and urged for action to be taken to help people build ‘precautionary savings’ to avoid debt and protect individuals who fall behind on debt from charges.

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