Paisley and Renfrewshire South MP Mhairi Black met with a representative from StepChange to discuss the assistance they can offer people who find themselves in financial difficulty.

StepChange provides free debt advice and support online and over the telephone to thousands of people across Scotland who have found themselves in financial difficulty, often due to an unexpected event such as redundancy or long-term sickness.

In their report Scotland in the Red released earlier this year, StepChange Debt Charity Scotland revealed that thousands of people in Scotland are struggling with essential household bills such as Council Tax and energy bills. This comes at a time when many people are struggling with reductions in their income and benefits.

More and more people are falling behind with household bills. For example, the average level of electricity arrears in Scotland has increased by 23% since 2014. StepChange believe there are nearly 700,000 people in Scotland in, or at risk of, problem debt. It’s primarily a symptom of poverty, poor housing conditions, welfare cuts, ill-health, and insecure work.

Mhairi, said: “I was concerned to read how many people are in difficulty with their household bills just trying to make ends meet. Basics costs are rising faster than incomes, and if people fall into difficulty it’s getting harder to get out.

“That’s why it is vital we have free advice organisations like StepChange providing such an important service.

“We are reaching a decade of Tory austerity. People have been feeling the cuts by the UK Government now for a very long time. It is vital we support those that are financially struggling as the impact that debt can have is not just on your financial security, but it can also affect your mental health.

“There’s no shame in asking for professional advice and I urge people in financial difficulty with debt to contact StepChange.”

Photo: Mhairi with Lawrie Morgan-Klein from debt advice charity StepChange

Lawrie Morgan-Klein from StepChange Scotland, said: “We are increasingly concerned by the numbers of people who are in difficulty with household bills like Council Tax.

“It’s becoming harder to make ends meet and when a crisis occurs such as falling ill or losing a job, what had been a perfectly manageable situation can get harder and harder to cope with alone. The sooner someone gets advice the less harm they may experience as a result of financial difficulty and the greater their options may be.”