Section 8: Debt

UK Average Debt Statistics 

Table 8.1

Oct-23 Oct-22 Annual Change
Average household debt in the UK (excluding mortgages) £7,813 £7,412 +£401
Average household debt in the UK (including mortgages) £65,756 £65,746 +£10
Average unsecured consumer debt per UK adult £4,125 £3,895 +£230
Source: The Money Charity, December 2023

Average household debt in the UK (excluding mortgages) was £7,813 in October 2023. The figure has increased by £401 on the previous year. Average household debt in the UK (including mortgages) was £65,756 in October 2023. The figure has risen by £10 on the previous year. Average consumer borrowing per UK adult (including credit cards, motor and retail finance deals, overdrafts and unsecured loans) was £4,125 in October 2023, up £230 on the previous year.

National Debt Advice – StepChange Data

The latest Yearbook report from StepChange Debt Charity highlights the debt situations of clients who contacted the charity between January and December 2022 for their most recent advice session. Like many households across the UK, StepChange clients felt the impact of increased living costs on essential items such as food and energy. For many clients, this rise in costs left them unable to afford these everyday essential costs.

Over half a million (580,913) clients contacted StepChange seeking debt advice or guidance with their problem debt in 2022, which is a 20% increase on 2021 (483,247).  In 2022, 187,278 clients completed full debt advice, which is a 9% increase on 2021 (171,232).

StepChange Client Budgets

Table 8.2

Median Average 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 Annual Change 2021-2022
Monthly income £1,490 £1,366 £1,291 £1,437 £1,400 +£124
Monthly expenditure £1,395 £1,278 £1,185 £1,335 £1,302 +£117
Monthly surplus £68 £72 £65 £56 £52 -£4
Source: StepChange Yearbook Statistics on Personal Debt 2022, March 2023

Average monthly income and expenditure levels have increased in 2022 and are higher than recent years. In 2022, 56% of StepChange clients were in some form of employment, which may partly reflect why there is a rise in the average monthly income. The increase seen in the average monthly expenditure reflects the rising cost of living.

Despite the increase in StepChange client’s average monthly income year-on year, the median average monthly surplus is marginally down by £4, from £72 in 2021 to £68 in 2022.

StepChange Clients with a negative budget

Table 8.3

Proportion of clients with a negative budget 2022 2021

Percentage Point Annual Change

All clients 29% 27% +2pp
Women 30% 28% +2pp
Men 28% 28% 0pp
Other gender identity 30% 29% +1pp
Under 25 27% 26% +1pp
25-39 26% 25% +1pp
40-59 34% 32% +2pp
60 and over 33% 30% +3pp
Adults with children 60% 54% +6pp
Single with children 34% 30% +4pp
Couple with children 26% 24% +2pp
Single without children 29% 29% 0pp
Couple without children 24% 24% 0pp
Universal Credit 46% 44% +2pp
Source: StepChange Yearbook Statistics on Personal Debt 2022, March 2023

A negative budget describes where a client’s monthly expenditure is greater than their
monthly income after receiving money advice, budgeting advice and maximising their incomes. The proportion of clients with a negative budget has increased by two percentage points from 27% in 2021 to 29% in 2022. The proportion of clients with a negative budget is also higher among those aged 40-59 (34%) and those aged over 60 (33%), single adults with children (34%), and clients in receipt of Universal Credit (46%). 60% clients with children have a negative budget in 2022, which is an increase of six percentage points compared to 2021 (54%).

StepChange Clients – Arrears on essential household bills

Table 8.4

Arrears type 2022 2021 2020  2019 Annual Change 2021-2022
Average arrears amount % of clients Average arrears amount % of clients Average arrears amount % of clients Average arrears amount % of clients Average Arrears Change percentage point change
Council Tax £1,689 52% £1,578 45% £1,292 36% £1,146 30% +£111 +7pp
Electricity £1,272 30% £1,152 28% £1,002 26% £825 17% +£120 +2pp
Gas £874 25% £781 23% £703 23% £661 13% +£93 +2pp
Mortgage £5,751 16% £4,497 19% £3,518 17% £2,977 17% +£1,254 -3pp
Rent £1,786 22% £1,676 25% £1,463 27% £1,084 21% +£110 -3pp
TV Licence £108 3% £102 4% £92 7% £103 8% +£6 -1pp
Water £1,065 29% £988 33% £866 32% £804 24% +£77 -4pp
Source: StepChange Yearbook Statistics on Personal Debt 2022, March 2023

Arrears to essential household bills all saw an increase over the last year. Of clients that contacted the debt charity StepChange in 2022, 52% had arrears with Council Tax. The average value of Council Tax arrears was £1,689 per client.  The average value of Council Tax arrears has increased since 2021 by £111. In addition, the proportion of clients with council tax arrears has increased by 7 percentage points since 2021.

The average amount owed by clients with mortgage arrears was £5,751 this figure increased by £1,254 on 2021. However the proportion of clients calling in with mortgage arrears saw a drop from 19% of clients in 2021 to 16% in 2022.  Average amount of electricity arrears increased to £1,272, gas arrears increased to £874 and water arrears increased to £1,065.

StepChange Proportion of Clients with Unsecured Debts

Table 8.5

National UK Data 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 Annual Change 2021-2022
Credit Card 66% 66% 67% 69% 68% 0%
Overdraft 34% 36% 39% 46% 47% -2%
Personal Loan 47% 49% 52% 48% 47% -2%
Catalogue 35% 36% 35% 35% 34% -1%
Payday Loan 11% 11% 13% 17% 18% 0%
Store Card 12% 12% 14% 13% 12% 0%
Source: StepChange Yearbook Statistics on Personal Debt 2022, March 2023

Credit cards remain the most common debt type among StepChange clients, at 66%  which is unchanged on 2021. The proportion of clients with personal loans has decreased by two percentage points between 2021 (49%) and 2022 to 47%. The proportion of clients with overdrafts has also decreased by two percentage points to 34% in 2022. The continual fall in the proportion of clients with overdrafts is possibly due to regulatory interventions aimed at reducing the harm of repeat overdrafts.

Local Debt Advice

Quality assured, impartial and free legal debt advice service is provided by specialist debt advisers who provide advice in accordance with Financial Conduct Authority regulations. Advice is provided on a wide range of debt issues including rent/mortgage arrears, utility debts, council tax arrears and credit debts. Local Debt Advice can be accessed remotely via the telephone or online chat services or at face to face appointment sessions.

This local debt advice is primarily funded by the Government’s Money and Pensions Service (MaPS).  Better Leeds Communities, Citizens Advice Leeds. Ebor Gardens Advice Centre and St Vincent’s Advice Centre are the four independent advice agencies in Leeds that deliver this service. Each agency has provided information relating to the number of debt clients they have supported  and the number of MaPS funded debt advisers in the city on an annual basis to help provide an insight on the demand for debt advice locally in Leeds.

Although the table below focusses on MaPS debt advice provision, it should be noted other funds are available and are used for debt advice locally to support provision alongside national government funding.

Table 8.6

Leeds Debt Advice 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 2022-23
Debt Clients 4,667 4,664 3,145 3,661 4,800
Debt Advisers (FTE) 13.5 15.5* 14.9 12.0** 11.6**
* = data includes  1 trainee debt adviser
**=data includes 2 trainee debt advisers
Source: Leeds MaPS funded Debt Advice Services, August 2023

In 2022-23 there were 4,800 people in Leeds in receipt of debt advice with an independent advice provider across Leeds. There were 9.6 fully qualified full time equivalent (FTE) debt advisers and 2 trainee advisers during this time. 

Just prior to the pandemic in 2019/20 there were 14.5 FTE fully qualified debt advisers and one trainee, and 4,664 people receiving debt advice. From this point up to 2022/23, advice client numbers increased 3% but the number of FTE fully qualified advisers fell by 4.9.

Numbers of clients for debt advice has recently started to exceed pre-pandemic levels. The drop in client numbers in 2020/21 reflects the response to debt during the pandemic and increased forbearance amongst creditors.  The dip in 2021/22 is not indicative of a fall in demand but a reduction in the number of debt advisers as a result of national funding changes.