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Experiences of debt and debt advice services in Islington

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Researchers: Nilufer Rahim
Published: January 2012

Aim

The aim of this study was to enhance the Islington Debt Coalition’s (IDC) understanding of the attitudes of Islington residents to debt and their views on and experiences of debt advice services.

What is the Islington Debt Coalition?

The IDC is a partnership of various statutory and voluntary sector organisations from across the London Borough of Islington working to tackle the issue of debt in the borough.

Findings

Experiences of debt

Residents experienced problem debt with varying degrees of ‘manageability’. Although debt experiences were triggered by a range of personal and financial circumstances, living on low incomes and lacking surplus money also contributed to problem debt.

Debt experiences became unmanageable when residents’ financial capabilities and penalties  made repayment more difficult. While participants valued the opportunity to access relatively easy credit from loan companies they reporting feeling vulnerable to the temptation to borrow from these sources.

Responses to debt

Decisions to take action to address debts were influenced by:

  • perceived repercussions of being in debt (such as repossession);
  • expectations of how manageable repayment would be; and
  • attitudes to the idea of owing money.

Closer management of income and expenditure also helped make debt more manageable.

Debt advice and support

Awareness of support services was low among participants and there were a number of barriers to accessing services. The main barriers cited were:

  • practical issues such as the time and cost of accessing services;
  • negative perceptions of how helpful services would be; and
  • personal issues such as depression, anxiety or embarrassment.

The report also gives suggestions for improving debt advice services in the borough, including:

  • giving advice on financial and debt management particularly at key life
    stages (such as having a child) or crisis points (such as marital breakdown);
  • improving the accessibility of services; and
  • emphasising that help would be confidential and non-judgemental.

Methodology

This study used a qualitative methodology comprised of 18 in-depth interviews, nine focus groups and one consultation group.

Read the report