Thousands of Scots are not seeking help with debt and money worries due to a “misplaced sense of shame”, the country’s national advice service has warned.
Advice Direct Scotland (ADS) said the wholesale rise in living costs over the past year, driven by inflation and energy price increases, had affected “virtually every household in Scotland”.
In a consultation response to Holyrood’s social justice and social security committee, which is holding an inquiry into low income and debt, the charity said a “tidal wave of households” had been forced to seek help with debts for the first time.
And it also warned people from households that have never had to seek support before “are now appearing more reluctant to accept help” due to the “stigma and shame tied to debt”.
ADS said: “We recognise that thousands of households across Scotland are not seeking support because of a misplaced sense of shame.
“We understand from engaging with frontline support hubs – foodbanks and community centres – that there is a pervasive sense of shame attached to debt.
“Many perceive seeking debt advice as a personal failure, potentially affecting their reputation, and standing in society.”
ADS stressed there was no shame in people with problem debt or money issues seeking help to try and improve their situation, adding: “We offer free and, if the customer requests, anonymous guidance on doing this.”
The charity provides a range of free and impartial services, including consumer advice at consumeradvice.scot, and support on issues including debt, the cost-of-living crisis and rising energy prices at moneyadvice.scot and energyadvice.scot
Crisis pushing people into debt
Its consultation response also addressed issues such as digital exclusion, the impact debt can have on people’s mental health and the main types of debt faced by those on low incomes – including council tax and rent arrears.
There is no shame in someone wanting to improve their situation, and nobody should have to struggle with money problems alone.”
On digital exclusion, it highlighted a significant shift by public sector organisations to offer services online during the pandemic and said it would strongly advise in favour of improving government assistance in digital and broadband access for those on lower incomes.
ADS has backed calls made by Ofcom encouraging all broadband firms to help low income households by offering discounted packages known as “social tariffs” which can rapidly reduce bills and improve access.
Conor Forbes, head of business development and policy, ADS, will give evidence to the Holyrood inquiry this week.
Mr Forbes said: “We know the current cost-of-living crisis, driven by rising energy bills and inflation, is having a detrimental impact on people’s household finances, pushing many people into debt.
“However, the stigma and shame tied to debt are major obstacles in obtaining a resolution. Thousands of people are reluctant to seek help or advice because of this.
“There is no shame in someone wanting to improve their situation, and nobody should have to struggle with money problems alone.”