Average unsecured debt 'at its highest level in a decade in 2023'

More than three in five (63%) new clients are women. Credit: PA

The average unsecured debt was at its highest level in a decade in 2023, according to a charity.

The main drivers of the concerning statistics include mounting pressure from the cost-of living-crisis, as well as higher amounts of credit card and personal loan debts.

It means that "a cost of living increase" is now the most common reason for debt in the UK.

Debt charity StepChange said more than three in five (63%) new clients are women, as they advised one new client every three seconds in 2023.

Clients aged between 25 and 44 are also over-represented, making up 60% of the client base, it added.

Overall, nearly one in three (32%) people getting help from StepChange Debt Charity last year were in a negative budget – where they had more money going out than coming in.

The proportion of clients receiving Universal Credit, at 37%, increased by three percentage points in 2023 compared with 2022, and StepChange said it continues to see renting as the most common housing tenure among clients (64%).

The average monthly amount available to clients for debt repayment (their surplus) fell from £69 in 2022 to £53 in 2023.

Cost-of-living pressures were the most common reason for debt, cited by a quarter (25%) of people seeking help.

The average amount of household arrears among StepChange clients increased to £3,124 in 2023, up from £2,833 in 2022.

More than three in five (63%) new clients are women. Credit: PA

Typical unsecured (non-mortgage) debt among clients reached its highest level since 2013, standing at £14,654 in 2023, up from £13,563 in 2022.

In 2023 the charity provided full debt advice to 183,403 clients, which is an increase of 10% year-on-year.

Vikki Brownridge, chief executive at StepChange Debt Charity, said: “Over the past year we’ve really begun to see the impact of the cost-of-living crisis take hold. Particularly among those on low incomes, household financial insecurity is a growing threat.

“Both a rise in household arrears and unsecured debt amounts suggests those struggling are turning to credit to cover their essentials more than ever.”

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