Reflecting on Debt Awareness Week and our financial hardship events

26 March 2024 | Blog

By Charlotte Payne, Membership and Communications Officer

Last week was Debt Awareness Week run by SASP members, StepChange. As we reflect on the week and the information and resources shared, we are also reflecting on the work we’ve done recently around the topic of financial hardship.

In this blog, we aim to share what we’ve learnt and the resources shared with us, in the hope that we can help ensure that everyone who is bereaved by suicide receives timely and appropriate support.

You can find the whole resource pack from our events, including the presentations shared, here.

Why the focus on financial hardship and suicide bereavement?

In 2023, we decided to run a series of events for our members focusing on the links between financial hardship and providing suicide bereavement support. This decision was in response to a number of issues.

Firstly, we wanted to offer a fast response to the cost of living crisis by providing the suicide bereavement support services that are our members with swift resources and guidance to best support their service users.

Secondly, the effects that financial hardship and related issues have on mental health, and in turn – suicide prevention and postvention services, are clear, and many of our members had requested a focus on the topic.

For example, according a report on suicide and debt by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute:

  • Over 420,000 people in problem debt consider taking their own life in England each year, and more than 100,000 people in debt actually attempt suicide
  • People in problem debt are three times more likely to have considered suicide than people who are not in problem debt
  • Long-term factors such as persistent poverty and financial insecurity can put people in at risk of becoming suicidal, as can sudden triggers like the intimidating and threatening letters people receive from lenders.

Likewise, 31% of borrowers from illegal loan sharks had thought about or attempted suicide, according to research by the Illegal Money Lending Team – England.  And each year, 17% of loan shark victims make an attempt on their life.

Additionally, 85% of PayPlan clients say that being in debt has impacted their mental health.

As well as this, new research by the Suicide Prevention Consortium, a collaboration of Samaritans (lead), National Suicide Prevention Alliance, Support After Suicide Partnership and With You, explores people’s experiences of accessing support when they have no fixed address. It highlights the poor treatment being faced, the negative impact this has on suicide risk, and the lack of suicide prevention support offered.

Resources that may support services and service users

Below we have collated some of the resources we became aware of through our events and afterwards.

1. Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) payments available

Bereavement support payment – A benefit that supports bereaved working-age people with the immediate costs associated with the death of their spouse or civil partner, or where there are children or cohabiting partners. It consists of an initial lump sum and up to 18 monthly instalments, with higher amounts paid for those with children.

Bereavement benefits remedial order – In February 2023, the law was changed so that, for the first time, people who lost their cohabiting partner and who had dependent children or were pregnant on the day they died can qualify for Bereavement Support Payment (BSP). Before this, only those who were in a legal union with their partner could qualify.

Funeral expense payments – The Funeral Expenses Payments (FEP) scheme makes a significant contribution towards the cost of a funeral arranged by someone who is in receipt of certain income-based benefits or tax credits.

2. DrugFam helpline, support and training

SASP members DrugFam provide a seven-day-a-week helpline to support people who are struggling to cope with a loved one’s addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling.

They also offer bereavement support. They can be contacted on 0300 888 3853 or send them a message here.

As well as this, they provide educational talks to professionals, schools prisons and the armed forces.

3. Illegal money lending team loan shark support resources

The team offer a free one-hour training that can be delivered online or in person, covering:

  • What is a loan shark by definition and the broad range we encounter?
  • Who are the victims and what is their journey?
  • The work and remit of Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT)
  • Signs to identify when a client may owe money to a loan shark
  • What information can and can’t you share with our team and GDPR?
  • How to engage a client to seek our support
  • The impacts on victims

To find our more email [email protected]

The have also published this ‘Stop loan sharks’ blog, including information about what a loan shark is, why people turn to them, and what people should do if they have been targeted by a loan shark

3. PayPlan debt advice

SASP members, PayPlan, offer free debt advice over the phone or online, Mon-Fri 8am-8pm and Sat 9am-3pm.

4. Quaker Social Action (QSA)’s Down to Earth: practical support with funeral costs

QSA are SASP members offering free and confidential advice for people arranging a funeral anywhere in the UK and struggling with the cost.

In 2022/23 they:

  • Supported 648 clients through our helpline
  • Helped people save an average of £1,890
  • Helped people raise an average of £2,296

They also share the voices of the people they support, campaigning for change to ensure that everyone can afford a dignified funeral.

Other members working in this space

In addition to those shared above, the following SASP members also work in this space:

  1. Samaritans – whatever you’re going through, a Samaritan will face it with you. They’re here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  2. StepChange have a team of debt experts who help hundreds of thousand of people a year to deal with their debt problems. They offer free, flexible debt advice that is based on a comprehensive assessment of someone’s situation.

Do check out our training hub to find out about the training they, and our other members, have on offer.

Further resources