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Seek free advice for financial worries, urges MSP

By Alan Beresford

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PEOPLE who have been hit hard financially by the pandemic are being urged to seek help and not suffer in silence.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Karen Adam.
Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Karen Adam.

The call comes after Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Karen Adam met StepChange Debt Charity to discuss support available to households that have been affected by the economic consequences of the lockdowns.

Households across the area have faced significant financial burdens, through lost pay, workplace closures and increased living costs. Free advice provider StepChange has warned that the unprecedented events of the last 18 months have affected high and low earners.

Over half of those who approached the charity for help were in work, but still struggling with bills. Over one third of StepChange clients in Banffshire and Buchan Coast are struggling with council tax, on average £1351 behind on this key bill. Challenges are set to increase with the end of the uplift to Universal Credit and the furlough scheme in the coming months.

Ms Adam said: “I know there will be many households that may not be aware of the support from organisations like StepChange and Citizens Advice who can provide independent advice with debt and money difficulties.

"I recently met with StepChange to discuss the money challenges facing our communities and what support they have been giving to people here to help them become debt free.”

Sharon Bell, Head of StepChange Debt Charity Scotland said: “It has been a hugely challenging time and we know that money worries have a big impact on mental health.

"Keeping a roof over your head and heating your home are basic needs, yet for too many families these are constant worries. Even where families are not in difficulty, many are balanced on a knife edge, one setback away from problem debt.

"That is why we urge people to reach out for help, to restore some peace of mind and give you more control of your finances.”

Ms Adam added: “People so often are in difficulty due to circumstances well beyond their control, but despite this there can be stigma and shame associated with debt.

"Advisors will treat you with dignity, and will not blame or embarrass you. The sooner you take that first step of getting free and impartial help, the more options you may have and the sooner you will be able to get relief from all the stress and worry that debt can cause.”

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