COVID-19 has turned our world upside down.

Wide-ranging restrictions on all our lives have led to a wave of redundancies and financial uncertainty, with the unfortunate likelihood that there will be many more job losses over the months to come.

This economic catastrophe means that many people, even those who have never previously had money worries, might find themselves in a position where they fall into debt while trying to make ends meet. But while the situation sounds bleak, the good news is that there is plenty of support out there for anyone who needs it.

Debt charity StepChange has been delivering free debt advce in Scotland since 1997, with a team of sympathetic and knowledgeable advisors ready to help those who are in financial trouble. “I think it’s very important for people to understand that they are not alone,” stresses Sharon Bell, Head of StepChange Scotland.

“We all take out credit at different times in our lives, whether it is to buy a new car, a house, to purchase something. In normal situations you will make your payments and pay back that credit – but your circumstances can change over time.

“Whether it is because you have had a cut in your working hours, or you’ve lost your job, or suddenly your costs have increased and money is more difficult to manage. Irrespective of your type of debt we would look at all your debt and your income and expenditure and look at what options are out there that are available for you.

“We will help you understand what your options are.

“You could be in arrears on your rent or behind on your electric bill but what we will do is look at the different types of debt you have and whether you can manage that debt better, or if it has to be looked at as a potential write-off.”

You might be reading this while thinking you would never let yourself fall into debt, presuming it is something that only happens to other people. But according to Sharon, debt is a very subjective issue.

“Somebody can owe a family member £150, and that could be really important to them. They could be really worried, and really stressing, about the fact they are in debt for £150.

“There are other people who could have loans or credit card bills that constitute multiple thousands of pounds – but if they are able to manage these payments then debt isn’t a problem.

“The problems start coming when you are not able to make your repayments, and you start to feel stressed. If you are feeling stressed about the money you owe, you have what we would call ‘problem debt’ and you should get help and advice as quickly as possible.

“The sooner you get help and advice, the quicker and easier it will be to deal with that debt. If you delay, charges and interest could be applied to that debt and it could snowball and become a much bigger problem.”

Even if you don’t personally find yourself in debt, it is important not to blame those who do. Sharon points out that while society often assumes that people in financial difficulty have been ‘reckless’ with their money, most have simply been impacted by life events that are outwith their control.

“One of the things that is particularly evident now with Covid is making people more conscious of the fact that money is difficult, and they are more willing to speak about debt. And I don’t think anybody should be scared to speak about debt with loved ones, friends, or with an organisation like StepChange.

“We are here to help, not to make judgements, only to help you deal with your circumstances. Most people have had debt, or some financial difficulty, at some point in their lives.”

Sharon has a team of 85 trained money advisors working in the StepChange Glasgow office. They’ve even introduced a dedicated Covid payment plan, a short-term solution to help those whose financial situation has been negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s designed for those who perhaps weren’t in financial difficulty before March, but as a direct influence of Covid they find themselves in a difficult spot. It is designed to help people through and give them breathing space, according to Sharon. “The pandemic has caused some who struggle to struggle even more, whereas for others they have been thrown into the world of debt that they never thought they would be in.

And I’m sure it will be a very distressing time, with uncertainty about jobs and outgoings, it causes a lot of stress. “You’ve got a pandemic which is impacting on people’s health and wellbeing, when you add financial stress into that people’s wellbeing can get even worse.”

Fortunately, whatever your circumstances, the team at StepChange are on hand to offer free, non-judgemental advice to anyone in need.

Get online advice now at www. or call 0800 138 1111 (Monday to Friday 8am-8pm and Saturdays 8am-4pm)