More financial support is needed for young adults struggling with debt

Financial management is an ongoing challenge for most people, but worryingly, far too few under 25s are seeking advice when they fall into debt, a new survey has revealed. 

This is the feedback North West water company United Utilities is hearing from the money advice community across the region, ahead of its annual affordability summit, which is being opened by Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool on Monday, January 20 at the city’s St George’s Hall.

United Utilities is using this year’s summit, which will have representatives from debt advice charities, food banks, Credit Unions, Housing Associations and financial services such as utility providers and the banking sector from across the region to look at what more can be done to help young adults’ who are struggling with their finances, as well as continuing to support other customers who are struggling with their bills.

Louise Beardmore, customer services and people director at United Utilities, said: “The survey we did with the money advice community here in the North West showed that many young people are starting to build up debts soon after they turn 18 and very few seek expert advice on how to manage debt and borrowing.

“We’re currently helping more than 100,000 customers through our financial support schemes and since the last summit in January 2019 we have helped 13,000 people get out of debt with their water charges but like others we want to continue with early intervention so we can prevent customers falling behind in the first place and this includes having the right support for those under-25, building up debt now and worrying about money in their first few years of adult life.”

Supporting the event to emphasise ways organisations in the North West could better target and engage young people on money management is Iona Bain, an independent financial writer, speaker, broadcaster and founder of the award-winning Young Money Blog.  She said:  "Today, young people are thinking much more about their relationship with money. I have seen an explosion of financial apps, websites and books aimed at my generation since I started my blog eight years ago. But as well as creating confusion, these resources do not always have younger people's interests at heart, nor do they really solve the huge problem of financial inclusion.

“Responsible educators need to find a way to cut through the noise and offer balanced, independent and trustworthy advice so we can help those facing a financial crossroads. It's by no means a given that young people who are starting work or higher education have to sink into intractable debt or start missing crucial bills.

“I fully support United Utilities in its mission to encourage young people to get the advice they need at an early stage and coax them into developing a balanced, healthy approach to money management. I hope I can inspire attendees at the Affordability Summit and help them see a way forward." 

Louise added: “This is the third Affordability event we have organised. From our point of view, if customers, whatever age, are struggling with water bills, they are likely to be struggling to pay most of their household bills. It can be difficult for a single organisation to make a widespread difference and we believe that a collaborative regional partnership can go way beyond what any one organisation could do alone. We can learn from each other and look for other opportunities.
“Last year we launched the North West Hardship Hub, a one-stop shop tool for financial advisors to use when looking to find financial schemes and support for people across the North West who have come to them for help. We also developed a new money management module in conjunction with Youth Focus, aimed specifically at the 18-25 year olds, which is currently being trialled across the region.”