Homelessness & debt

Homelessness is a growing problem in the UK, and it can, and does, have devastating effects.

On average, homeless people die at just 47 years old. Homeless people are also over nine times more likely to take their own life than the general population.

There are different types of homelessness. For example, rough sleeping, in temporary accommodation, and hidden homelessness (e.g. staying with friends/family).

There are also many reasons why someone may become homeless. The causes of homelessness are wide-ranging, and it is often a combination of reasons, as opposed to one single root cause. Causes can include things like job loss, mental and/or physical illness, poverty, lack of affordable housing, and abuse.

Sadly, being homeless can, in turn, make many some problems even harder to resolve.

The statistics

In 2018, approximately 320,000 people were recorded as homeless in Britain.

It is a rise of 13,000, or 4%, on last year’s figures and equivalent to 36 new people becoming homeless every day.

Debt and homelessness

Debt is a growing problem, and it can get worse for an individual over time if it is not dealt with.

The worst case scenarios of debt include losing your home or feeling like you want to end your life. But there is help available out there for you that can help you to manage your debts.

If you are in housing debt, the stress can feel overwhelming and can make people feel completely consumed with worry. Many people report feeling stressed and not at ease until they felt ‘safe’ from the threat of eviction from being in arrears.

People often deal with their housing debt in addition to other debts and other problems in their lives, either related or unrelated to the debt. It can feel extremely tough, but there is help out there for you.

Further help

You may feel like you are completely alone if you are facing debt, but you are not. The following organisations provide housing and homelessness support:

Addiction

What is addiction?

Addiction can spread to every kind of pleasurable behaviour, but it is commonly associated with alcohol, drugs, gambling, and smoking.

Some studies suggest addiction is genetic, but environmental factors – such as being around other people with addictions – are also thought to increase the risk.

Addictions can have serious psychological effects, such as depression and anxiety.

The strain of managing an addiction can seriously interfere with your day to day life. You may cause damage to your work life and relationships.

In the case of substance abuse (for example, drugs and alcohol), an addiction can also have serious physical effects, such as liver and brain damage.

What are the financial implications of addiction?

The strain of managing an addiction can seriously interfere with your day to day life. You may cause damage to your work life and relationships. Addiction can also have financial implications.

The financial implications depend on what someone is addicted to – gambling has very obvious financial consequences, but alcohol abuse, smoking, and drugs can cost just as much.

For example, long-term drinkers may have to exit their career earlier than planned in order to manage health problems, or may have to spend money on treatment if necessary. The NHS estimates that most people who quit smoking save about £250 every single month – that’s about £3,000 per year.

Further support

Addiction is a treatable condition. Whatever the addiction, there are lots of ways you can seek help.

If you feel that you, or someone you know, has an unhealthy habit that has become addictive, you could contact a GP for advice or contact an organisation that specialises in helping people with addictions.

Online directories can help you find addiction treatment services in your area:

The following places are also useful:

Health conditions

Different health conditions can affect many areas of life, including finances. There are many different long-term health conditions that can make it difficult for people to manage their finances.

Long term conditions also affect a lot of people. In Britain over 10 million people have a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability – this figure is over 18% of the population.

If you’re facing a health problem, your finances may be the last thing that is on your mind. However, to avoid money worries from stacking up, you should try and sort out your money situation as soon as possible.

How can health conditions cause financial distress?

There are different ways that long-term illness and disability can impact on someone’s financial situation.

Long-term health conditions may put someone in the following situations:

  • Some long-term conditions can mean that you may not be able to carry on your previous job even after recovering, or you may reduce your working hours. This would lead to a reduction in income.
  • A 2017 report by The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that the disability pay gap (the difference between what non-disabled and disabled workers earn) is 13.6%.
  • Some health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, may lead to impulsive spending.
  • You may have to pay for various care, including things like medicine, housing adjustments, and social support.
  • It can be confusing and stressful to claim for different benefits, and some people may not know what support is even available to them. You can use benefits calculators to see what you may be entitled to.
  • You may not have a health condition yourself, but could be caring for someone who does. This may carry its own costs. Research has found that approximately 70% of carers say money worries are a source of stress.

Health and disability support

Read more about advice on health conditions and finance from StepChange.

There are lots of other great organisations that provide support for this area, including:

  • Mencap – Mencap provide information and support for those affected by learning disabilities – www.mencap.org.uk/ – Helpline: 0808 808 1111
  • Scope – A national disability charity that campaigns to challenge and change negative attitudes about disability and provides direct services – www.scope.org.uk – Helpline: 0808 800 3333
  • NHS website – The National Health Service website contains huge amounts of information on different health conditions and staying healthy – www.nhs.uk/
  • British Heart Foundation – Amongst many other activities, they offer information and support for those affected by heart conditions – www.bhf.org.uk/ – Helpline: 0300 330 3311
  • Cancer Research UK – Amongst many other activities, they offer information and support for those affected by cancer, including financial support, and coping emotionally – www.cancerresearchuk.org/ – For cancer-related questions call: 0808 800 4040
  • Marie Curie – Offer information and support to those who are affected by a terminal illness – www.mariecurie.org.uk/ – Helpline: 0800 090 2309
  • Stroke Association – Provides information and support to people who are affected by stroke – www.stroke.org.uk – Helpline: 0303 303 3100

Bereavement

Losing someone important to you is one of the hardest things to experience in life.

It can have a devastating effect on several areas of your life. Not only does it affect you emotionally, but it can impact your plans for the future and your finances.

If bereavement wasn’t hard enough on its own, it can be even tougher when it leaves you in a difficult financial situation. The stress and worry can feel overwhelming, and you can feel completely alone, confused, and lost.

If you have lost your partner, your financial situation may quickly change. According to research by the University of York, the sudden change in financial situation after a partner’s death, or the stress of realising you have to now manage finances alone, can impact negatively on the grieving process.

How can bereavement cause financial distress?

Bereavement may put someone in the following situations:

  • They may be faced with additional difficulties if the person they have lost was the main earner, as they could now have to cover all future living expenses, like bills and food shops.
  • Some people have to take on debts like joint-name mortgages themselves, which can feel like a huge burden.
  • They may have to pay for childcare if they now have to go to work when they were previously a stay at home parent.
  • They may have to deal with funeral costs, with the average funeral cost being £4,798.
  • It can be confusing and stressful to claim for different benefits, and some people may not know what support is even available to them.
  • Some people who go through bereavement find that they suddenly have strong impulses to spend money mindlessly, as their life has suddenly been flipped upside-down.
  • They may have had to spend a lot of money on care prior to their loved one dying. The University of York found that nearly half of people who have been bereaved by a partner acted as carers in the months before their partner died. There is a range of additional costs and expenses associated with relatives providing care for someone.

Signs of grief

Grief refers to the intense emotions that we experience when we lose someone or something we care deeply about. This loss is most typically through death, but can also be the result of other factors, such as a close relationship ending. 

There are some key signals and symptoms of grief. It is important to recognise them, so that you are able to help yourself and others as best as possible.

  • Shock and numbness – In the first few weeks following a bereavement it is very normal to experience shock and numbness. People may seem to be completely unemotional about what has happened, and usually, this will fade as they come to terms with the reality of their loss. If they continue to appear to be numb to the world for a sustained period of time this may indicate that they are not able to begin processing their grief and may need help to do so.
  • Withdrawal and detachment – The onslaught of emotions and the pain of grief may drive some to withdraw from other people, to reduce their interactions to the bare minimum and to avoid social contact. Again, this may be something that they need in the first few weeks and months, a period to grieve and reflect out of sight of others. However, if it continues for a lengthy period, it can lead to isolation, depression and disengagement from the workplace.
  • Overwhelmed, poor concentration – When we are in the middle of a highly charged emotional experience, such as bereavement, it can be difficult to think about or focus on anything else. Tasks that were previously simple can feel completely overwhelming, and concentrating for sustained periods of time may be almost impossible.
  • Anger and irritability – Anger can be directed at the source of grief, at the people around who have not been affected by it (why me?), at the people we believe to have responsibility for what has happened, or it can be directed inwards. Anger is a normal part of the grieving process, and it can be difficult to manage in a workplace setting. We often misdirect our anger, so it ends up being inflicted on someone else as a release mechanism, which can create interpersonal issues and conflict.
  • Excessive tiredness and low energy – Grief is mental, emotional and physical. The stress of dealing with grief can leave people feeling drained. When coupled with the inability to get enough sleep when experiencing grief, it can leave individuals in a state of very low energy and almost constant tiredness.
  • Increased illness and sick absence – Prolonged stress and lack of rest and self-care often mean that people in grief are more prone to sickness and infection and one of the first signs that they are not managing well may be a sharp increase in illness and/or absence.
  • Anxiety – The death, or loss, of a loved one is a life-changing event and can fundamentally alter your perspective. This sometimes also brings a loss of certainty about the world and how it works, an inability to trust that things will work out ok because they haven’t. Anxiety about safety and an unwillingness to take risks, to try new things, or to leave familiar places, can be common responses.
  • Depression – This is different from normal grief. A famous saying is: “In grief, the world looks poor and empty. In depression, the person feels poor and empty”. If someone is experiencing symptoms of depression, they should see their GP as soon as possible.

Bereavement help

Although it may feel like you are completely alone – you aren’t. There are lots of places where you can get emotional and financial help and support.

  • https://www.stepchange.org/debt-info/bereavement-and-debt.aspx
  • Child Bereavement UK – Child Bereavement UK supports families and educates professionals when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, or when a child is facing bereavement – https://childbereavementuk.org/
  • The Compassionate Friends – Dedicated to the support and care of bereaved family members who have suffered the death of a child or children of any age and from any cause – www.tcf.org.uk/ – Helpline: 0345 123 2304
  • Cruse Bereavement Care – United Kingdom’s largest bereavement charity, which provides support for people who have been bereaved and are experiencing grief – www.cruse.org.uk – Helpline: 0808 808 1677
  • Sands – Sands is a national stillbirth and neonatal death charity that supports anyone affected by the death of a baby – www.sands.org.uk/ – Helpline: 0808 164 3332
  • Blue Cross – An animal charity who also offer support to people who have experienced the bereavement/loss of a pet – www.bluecross.org.uk/ – Helpline: 0800 096 6606

Family circumstances

Every family is different. There is no guidebook on how to be a good family member or how to have a happy family: it will depend on each person’s individual situation.

This page covers some of the most common triggers to conflict and stress in the family unit, gives some tips on having a happy family life, explains the basics of separation and divorce, and offers a list of organisations who may be able to help you more.

Triggers

All families are different and certain things that will affect one family will not affect another. However, some common triggers of family stress and conflict include:

  • Differences in personalities – Differences in personalities can lead people to clash. For example, if one person wants more quiet time than another.
  • Differences in beliefs, values and/or goals – People are always going to disagree about something. However, if people disagree about something that is very important to them, this can cause family conflict.
  • Change in family circumstances – There are a number of ways that family circumstances can change, for example a new baby, adoption, divorce or separation, bereavement, blending families. This can be stressful for people in the family unit.
  • Infertility – This is a common issue that affects one in seven couples. It can be a major cause of stress. Choosing to go through treatments like IVF can also take an emotional toll.
  • Financial problems – Money is a common cause of stress and it is reported that up to 8.3 million people in the UK are unable to pay off debts or household bills. It can understandably lead to family stress and conflict.
  • Stress and work life – Many people struggle to not take work home with them (whether that is a mental burden, or actually doing more work).
  • Alcohol or drug use – Understandably, if one person thinks another member of the family unit is misusing alcohol or drugs, it can cause stress.
  • Gambling issues – When there is a problem gambler in the family, more than just the gambler is negatively affected. Gambling problems can cause family problems for a number of reasons, including the loss of money.
  • The onset of mental health problems – Another member of the family developing a mental illness can cause stress in the family, especially if they do not know how to help.
  • The onset of physical illness – Having a family member experience a serious physical illness can be extremely stressful to deal with.
  • Lack of trust/respect in a relationship – Many people feel like they cannot trust their partner or another member of the family. It has even been found that nearly two thirds of people go through their partner’s phone! If your relationship partner does cheat on you, this can also be a key source of conflict.

The list of events that can be stressful to a family unit is nearly endless. From bullying and exams, to job loss, repatriation, and natural disasters, there are so many things that can affect people and families.

The impact of family changes on finances

A large majority of these triggers can also lead to money worries. For example, the onset of physical illness, having children, and gambling can all really impact on family finances.

The good news is that you’re not alone if your family is feeling stressed about finances – one in four parents feel ‘intensely worried’ about money or debt.

Further support

  • Home Start is one of the leading family support charities in the UK
  • Family Lives is a charity with over three decades of experience helping parents to deal with the changes that are a constant part of family life

Alcohol abuse

Alcohol is one of the most widely used (and abused) drugs in the world. It is seen as an essential part of social, work and family life in most countries and cultures.

Alcohol also causes more deaths every year than all other forms of drugs combined.

Most of us start drinking alcohol in our mid- to late- teens and continue to enjoy it regularly, with friends and family, for the rest of our lives.

Whilst moderate consumption of alcohol, even on a regular basis, may not be deemed too unhealthy, frequent and excessive consumption poses a serious risk to your health.

Most people are well aware of alcoholism as a form of addiction and the damage it causes in one’s life. However, alcohol abuse does not need to reach the point of addiction before damaging our health and wellbeing.

What is alcohol abuse?

Alcohol abuse is defined as the habitual, excessive use of alcohol that results in damage to health, interpersonal relationships or ability to work.

As everyone is different, it is not easy to say precisely how many alcohol units must be consumed in one session for it to count as binge drinking. However, binge drinking is commonly defined as consuming more than eight units of alcohol in a single session for men, and more than six units for women.

While it may be hard to accept, most of us will know somebody for whom alcohol abuse is an issue. Some of us may even suffer from it without noticing. In many cultures and environments, alcohol abuse can be an accepted part of life – seen simply as having a good time, or essential to relaxing.

Nobody should be judged for occasionally drinking alcohol to excess. However, it is important to understand the effects of alcohol abuse and symptoms so you can help somebody suffering.

The NHS estimates that around 9% of men in the UK and 3% of UK women show signs of alcohol dependence.

How can it impact on personal finances?

It is well known that alcohol abuse can lead to serious financial problems, but not only because of the actual money spent on alcohol. After consuming alcohol, people are more likely to spend impulsively, and their working productivity may diminish. Long-term drinkers may have to exit their career earlier than planned in order to manage health problems, or may have to spend money on treatment if necessary.

It’s not just a one-way relationship either. People who are in debt may also turn to alcohol to relieve the stress of their money worries.

‘High-functioning’ alcoholics

However, when people think of an alcoholic, they often think of someone who has a wildly uncontrollable life because of drinking alcohol. But that’s not always the case.

It is important that people realise that many high-functioning alcoholics seem fine on the surface. This is because believing that all alcoholics fit the life-falling-apart stereotype will result in some alcoholics denying that they have a problem with alcohol, and so they may not get help.

Further support

There is help out there for you if you are struggling with alcohol misuse/abuse. The following organisations and links are a good place to start:

  • If you are concerned about your own drinking habits, take the alcohol self assessment. It’s free and confidential: Alcohol abuse self assessment.
  • Drinkaware offer lots of information and support on cutting down alcohol intake.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous is an organisation that helps people to recover from alcoholism.

Eating disorders & money

Eating disorders are very serious mental illnesses. They are characterised by unhealthy attitudes and behaviours towards food and eating.

Over 1.6 million people in the UK are estimated to be directly affected by eating disorders. They most commonly affect young women, but can be associated with anyone of any age, gender, or background.

Eating disorders can cause serious harm, and can be fatal, with anorexia nervosa having the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.

One aspect of eating disorders that is talked about less is the effect they can have on someone’s financial situation.

Common eating disorders

The most common eating disorders, according to the NHS, are:

  • Anorexia nervosa – People who have anorexia have a focus on trying to keep body weight minimal by keeping food intake extremely low, and/or through excessive exercise.
  • Bulimia – People who have bulimia go through periods where they eat a lot of food in a short amount of time, and then try to stop weight gain by making themselves sick, using laxatives, or exercising excessively.
  • Binge eating disorder (BED) – A person with BED regularly loses control of their eating and eats large amounts of food in one sitting, until they feel unpleasantly full. This often leads to feelings of shame and guilt.
  • Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED) – A person will be diagnosed with OSFED if their symptoms do not match that of any other eating disorder. However, it is just as serious as other eating disorders.

Eating disorders and money

Eating disorders and money can have a complex relationship.

Beat, a UK charity who support those affected by eating disorders, estimated that the direct financial burden to a person with an eating disorder, related to things like travelling to treatment, is on average £1,500 per year. Beat also estimated that getting treatment has an annual average cost of £8,850 (including both NHS and private providers).

Some eating disorders involve bingeing, and money spent on this can also be high. Other costs that can be associated with eating disorders include gym memberships (sometimes multiple memberships), dieting supplements/aids, and clothes of varying sizes.

However, some eating disorder behaviours manifest in becoming restrictive with money. Some people with eating disorders find that they become regulatory and excessively restrictive in what they allow themselves to spend money on. This unhealthy relationship with money can mean that some people stop spending money on necessities, as well as luxuries.

Personal finances can also be affected by a loss of earnings, to sufferers and carers, resulting from disruption to education, employment and professional development. Individuals with long-term mental health conditions are far less likely to be in work than those without any health conditions, and it has been estimated that 300,000 people with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs every year.

Further help

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, you are not alone.

 

Payday loans

Complaints against payday lenders have risen to a five-year high, the Financial Ombudsman Service has announced. Many people struggle to repay payday loans due to their extremely high interest rates.

What are payday loans?

A payday loan is a type of loan, which is usually a relatively small amount of money lent at a high rate of interest. They are usually based on the agreement that it will be repaid relatively soon, when the borrower receives their next wages.

Typically someone will borrow a few hundred pounds from a payday loan firm for a short time, to tide them over for a short amount of time.

Many people use them to cover things like urgent and unexpected bills or costs.

The Office of Fair Trading found that the typical borrower of a payday loan was “more likely to be a young male, earning more than £1,000 monthly, and in rented accommodation. Many are unmarried with no children”.

What is the problem with payday loans?

Many people have issues with payday loans, due to how high their rates of interest are. They can become extremely expensive to pay back, and can quickly look unrecognisable from the original amount borrowed.

“Payday loans are marketed as an appealing short-term option, but that does not reflect reality. Paying them off in just two weeks is unaffordable for most borrowers, who become indebted long-term,” – Nick Bourke.

The Office of Fair Trading thinks that as much as £1.8bn a year may now be being lent by payday lenders.

The problem for a borrower starts to build up quickly if he or she cannot, in fact, repay the loan as planned, and it gets extended or rolled over. The interest can then build up very quickly, and can soon seem hardly recognisable from the loan they first applied for.

Complaints against payday lenders have now soared to a five-year high, the Financial Ombudsman Service has said. There were nearly 40,000 new complaints brought last year, up a “startling” 130% on the 17,000 the previous year, they said.

They said that there were too many cases in which people were left to struggle with debt.

We strongly recommend that before considering a payday loan, you should do full due-diligence on the company and check the APR.

If you need help with any of these issues, check out our directory of help providers, or get in touch.

Parenthood

Although a new baby entering the family is a very exciting time, it puts a financial strain on many families. From room decorating to food, clothes, and toys, there are many new costs that will need to be factored into your budget.

Many people will also experience a reduction in income, due to taking time off work to look after a baby.

So, how much does it cost?

Research done in 2016 found that the cost of raising a child to the age of 21 is now approximately £230,000!

It’s an expensive time for most. Costs include everything from nappies and baby food to childcare and clothing. Childcare is also rising in costs for many people, with the average cost of sending a child under two to nursery being £242 (full time).

Research has also found that the most expensive time for parents is between their child’s first birthday and when they start school.

Almost half of mothers now say that they have been forced to go back to work earlier than they would have wished, or have taken on extra work, to help meet the cost of raising a family.

There are lots of nifty tips on how to save money during pregnancy, on things like new pregnancy clothes and decorating – read some here.

The Money Advice Service pregnancy plan

  • Step 1 – Take stock of your money situation
  • Step 2 – Cut back on your expenses e.g. are all subscriptions you have necessary?
  • Step 3 – Reduce your debts where possible
  • Step 4 – Open a savings account
  • Step 5 – Boost your income e.g. check what benefits may be available to you and see what financial support you can get with childcare. Use benefits calculators to see what you may be entitled to.

Support with family circumstances

  • Home Start – Home Start is one of the leading family support charities in the UK – www.home-start.org.uk/
  • Family Lives – Family Lives is a charity with over three decades of experience helping parents to deal with the changes that are a constant part of family life – www.familylives.org.uk/ – Helpline: 0808 800 2222
  • Adoption UK – National charity run by and for adopters www.adoptionuk.org

Weddings & marriage

For many people, getting married, or entering a civil partnership, is one of the happiest and most exciting times of their life. However, it can also be one of the most expensive.

The ceremony itself

Getting married, or entering a civil partnership, can be one of the most exciting and happy times in a person’s life. It can also be one of the most expensive, with the average wedding in the UK now costing around £27,000!

Many people end up using credit to pay for wedding ceremonies, which can put them into large amounts of debt.

It is possible to get married without spending so much – it’s things like the venue and clothing that bump up the costs so dramatically.

Many people choose to get officially married in a registry office and then have a celebratory party somewhere else. This avoids the big costs of actually getting married in an extravagant venue and does not make your wedding day any less special.

However, do not worry if you have found yourself in debt because of an expensive wedding. There is lots of help and advice available to you, and you are not alone. StepChange advise that if your family have offered to loan you money towards your wedding and you’re on a debt solution, you must let your debt solution provider know.

Married life, communication and budgeting

Many people’s lives change dramatically when they get married.

If you haven’t already, you should have an honest talk about finance and budgeting. You should discuss things like: who will pay for what; will you use a joint bank account? You might find it hard to talk about money at first if you have not previously done so, but it is a good idea.

You should also not hide money problems from your partner – it might make things harder in the long-term and can damage your relationship.

How to talk about money with a partner

  • Be practical – It can be hard to not let emotions take over, but try to be as practical and realistic in your conversations as possible. Make a plan or budget that allows you to go forwards.
  • Actually listen and be polite/understanding – Use active listening and make sure that your voice is not the only one being heard. Be open and understanding; really try to see their point of view.
  • Keep your cool – It may be an upsetting or frustrating conversation, but remember – no money problems are unsolveable. Trying to remain calm will help you to make rational decisions.
  • Be honest – Having a conversation about finances is pointless if you aren’t being honest. Mean what you say.
  • Keep talking – This isn’t necessarily a one-off conversation.

Budgeting

How to budget by the Money Saving Expert

Making a budget can help you and your partner to know how much money you have available to spend, where your money goes each month (necessarily and unnecessarily), and whether your finances are in order.

If you are moving in together for the first time, shop around to get good deals on things like your utilities. Also consider buying pre-owned furniture, as this can hugely reduce costs.