New service to help tackle debt

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A new financial health service offering a one-stop-shop for money advice services has been launched this week by Business Minister Fergus Ewing.

Scotland’s Financial Health Service website provides links to a range of organisations offering information and advice on debt, managing money, housing, homelessness and ethical lending.

A key part of the new website is a Financial Education module which aims to help people to manage their money to stop any future problems.

The website also allows users to search for their local credit unions and find out about the products offered by them, and to search for approved money advisers.

A new law, the Bankruptcy and Debt Advice (Scotland) Act, which comes into force in April 2015, ensures appropriate debt relief and management and includes mandatory provision of money advice.

In Edinburgh, launching Scotland’s Financial Health Service, Mr Ewing said:

“It is important that we take action to help those people in Scotland who are struggling under the burden of debt.

“We have developed Scotland’s Financial Health Service because we must ensure that people who need to access debt and budgeting advice, do so easily with credible sources.

“Last year, the Accountant in Bankruptcy’s ‘12 Days of Debtmas’ campaign targeted people who may get into financial trouble over the festive period by using high interest, short-term credit.

“During the six months between October 2013 and March 2014 – during which time the ‘12 days of Debtmas’ and ‘Helping Hand with debt’ campaigns ran – 14,307 new members joined credit unions in Scotland. This is a 4.2 per cent increase in total membership.

“People across Scotland can join credit unions – all sorts of people from all walks of life use credit unions to save and borrow responsibly, and the most successful attract a diverse membership.”

Welcoming the launch Paul Walsh, CEO of CUNA Mutual said:

“With the ever widening protection gap continuing to spread – leaving 86 per cent of Scottish residents in trouble if their income was lost – it is vital that the right support is provided to those who become financially vulnerable. Initiatives, like this government website, supporting those shouldering the burden of debt are imperative alongside the practical credit and protection solutions offered by credit unions throughout Scotland.

“The credit union movement in Scotland both funds and protects thousands of Scottish residents and has become a solid part of the Scottish financial community.”

ABCUL Scotland Policy Manager Frank McKillop said:

“Since Scotland’s first credit union was founded in 1970, generations of volunteers, directors and staff have been focused on helping people in their communities and workplaces to get on top of – and stay in control of – their finances.

“By encouraging a responsible approach to saving, borrowing and budgeting, Scotland’s credit unions are well placed to play their part in building the nation’s financial health.”

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