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Time to ‘talk money’ as four in ten callers in debt wait a year before seeking advice

Who is seeking debt advice: a National Debtline perspective

Posted November 9, 2022

  • 4 in 10 National Debtline callers wait a year or more before seeking advice
  • An estimated 15 million (29%) of UK adults say they worry about money every day
  • 8.1 million people (15%) regularly lose sleep worrying about rising costs
  • Experian analysis reveals makeup of National Debtline callers, helping the charity to tailor its outreach to those who need most support

New analysis published today by the Money Advice Trust (the charity which runs the National Debtline service) and data company, Experian, has revealed new insights about the pressures being experienced by UK consumers.

It shows that three in 10 (29%) UK adults are worrying about their finances every day, while one in seven (15%) say they are regularly losing sleep due to the cost-of-living crisis.

The findings offer a detailed analysis of the lives of the people contacting the service. Four in ten (39 percent) callers to National Debtline, the free debt advice service, wait a year or more before seeking advice about their debts and more than a quarter (28%) wait two years or more.

With household budgets under huge strain as costs continue to rise, the Money Advice Trust is encouraging anyone worried about their finances to talk money and seek free independent debt advice as soon as possible.

The findings have been published in a new briefing, ‘Talking Money’, as part of Talk Money Week, an annual awareness campaign coordinated by the Money and Pensions Service to encourage people to open-up about money.

The briefing also explores some of the reasons for debt amongst callers to the charity and the underlying challenges they face.

  • Income too low to cover essential costs is currently the most common reason cited for debt amongst callers to National Debtline (33 percent).
  • One in five callers cite mental health (20 percent) and 18 percent say an unexpected bill.
  • 45 percent of clients now have a deficit budget, where they do not have enough coming in to cover essentials – up from 37 percent in 2021.

Experian’s analysis, which used financial behaviour and geo-demographic modelling, showed that callers to National Debtline were over-represented in household groups that tend to be on the lowest incomes, live in rented or social housing with stretched budgets.

The findings help build an even greater understanding of who is seeking debt advice and who may be in need of support from the charity.

Jane Tully, director of external affairs and partnerships at the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline and Business Debtline, said:

“This is a challenging time for millions of people as day-to-day costs continue to rise and household budgets come under ever increasing pressure. Seeking advice about your finances can feel like a hard step to take, but the difference it can make to both your financial and emotional wellbeing is huge. It is never too late to seek advice, however as our findings show many people wait over a year before doing so. If you are worried about your finances, I would encourage you to contact a free debt advice service as soon as possible.”

National Debtline offers free, independent debt advice at

Business Debtline offers free, independent debt advice to small business owners and the self-employed at

Colin Grieves, of Experian UK&I, said:

“Many people are currently experiencing financial upheaval and it is important they are aware of the support organisations such as the Money Advice Trust can provide. They can help before it is too late.

“Our analysis shows the three most common groups seeking help share some of the same characteristics - households with limited disposal income and savings, many of which are in full-time employment – but the challenges are impacting all age groups at different life stages.

“Younger, single people are seeking help. This group is made up of people in their 20s and 30s, renting properties in city locations, and again are in full-time employment but are struggling to make ends meet.

“Meanwhile, both families with young children, and older workers in the latter half of their career are also found in the analysis, indicating how widespread money worries are.

“By developing a deeper understanding of who is and isn’t seeking help, MAT can tailor its outreach and support, helping more families and people get the advice and support they need at what is a difficult time.”

James Jones, head of consumer affairs, Experian UK&I, said:

“If you are in financial difficulty, it is wise to get support sooner rather than later. It will feel like a big decision, but it is the first step to getting the timely help you need.

“Not doing so could make things worse, exacerbating the issue and your worries, including prolonging any damage to your credit score.”

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