Average debt now up by 6% to over £12,500

Media release
Friday 1 April 2016

Leading local advice charity, Citizens Advice Exeter, today publishes its advice trend statistics for February 2016. The charity has helped 36% more people with their advice and information needs since April 2015.

For clients seeking assistance with debt problems, they owed an average of £12,634.12 to their creditors; an increase of 6.1% on the previous year.

The amount of advice that the charity has been able to provide compared to last year, was as follows:


Overall, the charity has dealt with 1% more debt enquiries this year. The main increases being:

  • 35.0% increase about council tax arrears
  • 20.0% increase about housing association rent arrears
  • 8.4% increase about water debts

Welfare benefits

Overall, the charity has dealt with 27.5% more welfare benefit enquiries this year. The main increases being:

  • 31.6% increase about disability benefits (PIP/DLA)
  • 29.6% increase about housing benefit
  • 22.6% increase about employment and support allowance
  • 21.7% increase about tax credits


Overall, the charity has dealt with 33.4% more employment enquiries this year. The main changes being:

  • 45.8% increase about dispute resolution
  • 30.1% increase about dismissal
  • 29.2% increase about pay and entitlements


Overall, the charity has dealt with 46.3% more housing enquiries this year. The main changes being:

  • 52.0% increase about actual homelessness
  • 46.1% increase about private sector property
  • 25.6% increase about threatened homelessness

Chief Executive Steve Barriball said: “In relation to debt enquiries, it is a real concern that debt enquiry volumes have increased past the numbers last year. Moreover, on average, people seeking debt advice had annual incomes of £9,154.94. This means that the debt to income ratio has shot up to 17.3 months. Last year, the debt to income ratio stood at 14.5 months. In addition, increases in urgent, or priority, debts such as council tax, rent and water bills show that families with these problems are struggling to keep up with essential costs. Not everyone is confident managing their money so it is really important people are able to access free, impartial help and support to get their finances on track.”

Steve continued: “There is a worry here that for the last eleven months enquiries about welfare benefits, employment and housing have consistently been well ahead of where they were last year. This highlights the urgent need to address failings in the benefits system, provide more security for those in work, and provide additional assistance to those struggling to get on the property ladder; either as property owners or tenants.”

Client case studies – focus on benefit problems:

  1. A client living in Exeter was asked to attend a DWP medical assessment nearly 30 miles from home, and over two hours away by public transport, when there is an assessment Centre in Exeter.
  2. A female client attended a DWP medical assessment and found it very rushed, and was told to only answer questions with a yes or no response. She was so flustered that she forgot to hand over crucial medical evidence to support her claim.
  3. A client was required to attend a DWP medical assessment and due to the nature of his financial situation, it was agreed that he could claim back the costs of travel to the assessment Centre. However, the client was unable to meet the costs of the travel in advance of repayment due to his serious financial situation and low income

Steve finished by saying: “Our commitment is always to provide the advice people need for the problems they face. However, we can only continue to do this if we have the necessary resources and we need to increase public and business donations. Anyone wishing to support our work can donate on-line by going to the Support Us section of our website (www.citizensadviceexeter.org.uk)”

Alternatively, donations can be made in person at the charity’s offices on Dix’s Field in Exeter.