Debt Advisory charity, StepChange has informed of the alarming number of Scots facing problem debts.
The charity helped 30,000 people in Scotland who were having difficulty with financial issues. Of that number, 46% were having problems with council tax arrears.
The report produced by the charity ‘Scotland in the Red’ highlighted that the cost of problem debt to the public was around £750million.
In an alarming revelation, the charity noted that those who they had worked with, after paying for housing, council tax and heating had only £12.64 per month left over.
StepChange Scotland has made a plea to local authorities to give people a ‘fair chance’ to repay council tax debt and to ensure that ‘sustainable arrangements’ are in place.
The charity also recommended that the Scottish Government assign a minister with the task of developing and overseeing a
"high impact action plan to address the crisis that is blighting many lives and businesses across Scotland".
Head of StepChange Scotland, Sharon Bell stated that she is becoming
"increasingly alarmed by the increases in the proportion of our clients who are struggling with household bills, particularly council tax".
The research conducted by StepChange demonstrates that their clients in Scotland, are more likely to struggle with council tax arrears compared to elsewhere in the UK. The average amount of council tax arrears is £2,017.
But what causes problem debts? The charity identified that problem debts are generally a symptom of poor housing conditions, poverty, welfare cuts, ill-health and insecure work. The report also highlighted that as a result of problem debt, public services are dealing with an increase in mental health problems related to debt and even demand for help with housing. This social problem is costing an estimated £750 million. As a result, StepChange is calling for more work to be done around encouraging people with money or debt problems to seek help, to mitigate some of the harm debt can cause.
Government spokesperson from Cosla said:
"Scotland's councils take this issue very seriously and do all that they can to help people who find themselves in arrears.
"All councils will have plans and procedures in place to help people with their arrears."
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