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We need to take the shame out of debt


Myles Fitt of Citizens Advice Scotland says that help is always available

There’s a clear link between how much money you have and the state of your mental health. Indeed, research shows that 85% people in Scotland who have experienced debt say it has harmed their mental wellbeing.

But I don’t really need to quote data about this, do I? You know it yourself. When you’ve got a bit of extra money in your pocket - maybe after a raise at work or a wee windfall on the National Lottery - you feel good. And when you’re struggling, the opposite is the case. Particularly if you’ve been forced into debt. 

Over the last few years the rising costs of essentials – especially energy bills – has happened alongside a stubborn stagnation of incomes. The result of this combination is obvious, particularly for those who were just about managing before. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country, through no fault of their own, have fallen behind on their bills and find themselves in debt. Some for the first time, others seeing their existing debt get worse.

Here’s the thing I want to say – and this is important: there’s no shame in having debt, and it’s completely understandable to be stressed and anxious about it.

I say that because so many people in debt do feel shame. And guilt. And denial. As a result, they keep their debt secret and avoid dealing with it.

But of course this ostrich strategy is the worst thing you can do. Because left un-tackled, debt just breeds more debt. The interest piles on and soon your debt is spiralling out of control. And that’s when the mental health problems really start.

So we have launched our spring campaign, ‘Stressed about Debt?’ which aims to persuade those who are in that position that they’re not alone, that they have nothing to feel ashamed about and that free advice and support is available from the Citizens Advice network.

You can go to or of course you can get face-to-face advice from your local CAB.

Now, if you’re in debt yourself I suspect you’re wondering: ‘but can they actually help me?’ The answer is Yes. Our advisers are experts at this and get results every day. We can negotiate with your creditors to put a hold on debt collection to allow more time and space to agree an affordable repayment plan.

In some circumstances we can get some or all of your debt written off – last year in Scotland we helped people write off a total of over £11 million worth of debt. And we can help maximise your income, eg through benefits and grants you’re entitled to but perhaps didn’t know about.

And another thing. The CAB network is not judgemental. We’re not going to lecture you or blame you - we understand the pressures that lead people into debt and we’re completely on your side. Our service is entirely free, confidential and impartial. Our advisers are professional, sympathetic and very good at what they do. They won’t judge, they just help.

So make today the day you actually do something about your debt. Whether it’s a few hundred pounds or many thousands - we’ll have seen it before. Let us help you sort out your debt.

Myles Fitt leads the Financial Health Team at Citizens Advice Scotland.

This column was first published in the Herald.



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about 2 months ago

From memory CAS has employed novel funding schemes.