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How to support people who are at risk of debt

It’s often difficult to spot that someone is experiencing financial difficulties, and know how to support those who are. Jasper Davy, Head of Strategy & Relationship Management at RBS Debt Management Operations, shares some advice.

According to the Money Advice Service, one in six adults is at risk of going into debt. That’s almost eight million people – eight million people who might be feeling anxious, having trouble sleeping or withdrawing from socialising because of their money worries.

Yet it’s not always clear that someone is struggling. Signs will vary from person to person, but there’s a range of physical, emotional and behavioural factors which can indicate that someone is experiencing financial difficulties, including:

They’ve had a recent life event which has resulted in a loss of income or higher spending. For example - having a baby, being made redundant, illness, divorce or a death in the family.

They seem anxious, withdrawn or depressed. This can include them socialising less and avoiding friends.

They may seem more secretive, and start to hide issues and avoiding talking about finances.

Their weight has changed suddenly, including either losing weight or putting it on.

They seem tired or are having trouble sleeping.

They seem to be spending unrealistically, for example they may always have the latest ‘must have’ items although they don’t have the income to cover this.

They have changed their spending habits, either reducing spending (e.g. going on fewer holidays or eating out less) or overspending.

There’s also a range of ways that you can support someone who’s in debt. Here are three simple steps that friends and family can take to help:

  1. Start a conversation. If you can, speak about your own personal experiences to help get to the bottom of their financial worries, and keep the conversation neutral and non-judgemental.
  2. Talk to them about free debt advice. Helping someone with financial troubles understand that free debt advice is available could help them get their finances back on track – and you could offer to accompany them if they decide to seek advice from someone. Advice is available from a variety of places, including most banks. We offer specialist or debt management support to NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster and Lombard customers, and we were the first in the industry to have Citizens Advice Bureau advisors located on-site and working collaboratively with our teams.
  3. Tell them about Money Advice Service (MAS), which is an independent body set up by government to offer money management tips. Encourage them to use MAS’ Money Health Check - using it will help them identify which areas to focus on and give them practical ways to try and improve their situation.

Something as simple as taking a few minutes to talk to a loved one in debt can really help them, and could stop them from suffering in silence.

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