Number of people in debt to friends and family soars, charity reveals


The number of people struggling with debt who owe money to friends and family is rising rapidly, according to a charity.

StepChange Debt Charity's figures for the first half of 2016 show 28% of the charity's clients now owe money to friends and family, compared to 20% in the same period in 2014.

On average, those in debt to friends and relatives have borrowed £4,046, up from £3,176 during the same period two years earlier.

StepChange warned that debt can damage relationships. Nearly one third (31%) of the 1,000 people quizzed who were in financial difficulty reported negative effects on a relationship with a partner caused by their financial problems. Of those who reported negative effects, one in 20 (5%) had had a relationship break-up as a result.

Some 16% of people reported their financial difficulties having a negative effect on a friendship, with 3% of these people saying a friendship had broken down because of the debt.

And 16% also said their financial difficulties had had a negative effect on family relationships, with 4% of these people saying a relationship with a family member had broken down.

The charity also said borrowing from loved ones may not solve the underlying problem causing the debt and could cause it to become worse.

Signs that someone is in financial difficulty could include them only making minimum repayments on credit commitments for three months or more, falling behind on essential bills, using credit to pay essential bills, borrowing to keep up with other credit commitments or getting hit with overdraft or late payment charges on a regular basis.

Mike O'Connor, chief executive of StepChange Debt Charity, said: "It is good that people support their friends and family, but lending them money can bring serious and unexpected problems.

"If repayments to a family member or friend are then missed, or more money is needed to make ends meet, debt can cause serious damage to their relationships as well.

"Lending money to help someone you care about is understandable, but if they are already in financial difficulty, more borrowing is not necessarily the answer and it can make things worse. People need to take practical action to solve the underlying debt problem and taking debt advice is vital."