Young adults increasingly face stifling debt

Citizens Advice said people aged 17 to 24 asked for advice on 102,296 debt issues in the last year, a 21 per cent rise on the previous year.

It said young people were seeing falling debt carried on credit cards.

According to The BBC, youngsters are moving to “formal loans” instead, creating more problems than student loans.

“A new generation of young people are starting out with stifling levels of debt,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

“Many young people already face challenges getting on the career and housing ladders – doing this while saddled with huge unsecured debts make it an uphill struggle.

“As well as looking for a longer term solutions, it is important people can get independent advice, guidance and support about how they can manage their finances.”

The charity analysed the type of debts faced by young people, using the latest available official figures – which covered detailed debt data up to 2012.

It found that 45 per cent of the rise in debts was attributed to student loans.

The average debt in “formal” bank or payday loans among this age group rose from £969 to £4,577 between 2006 and 2012. Loans from family and friends rose from £30 on average to £1,000 over the same period.

Outstanding credit card balances, over the same period, fell from £332 to £234, owing to stricter lending criteria. This had previously been one of the biggest issues faced by those coming to Citizens Advice.

Overall, the charity said young people had an average unsecured debt of £12,215 in 2012 – more than three times the £3,988 typically owed among this age group before the financial crisis.

Debt was the equivalent of 70 per cent of income among 17 to 24-year-olds in 2012, compared with 34 per cent for 25 to 29-year-olds and 11 per cent of 60 to 64-year-olds, the charity said.

Joanna Elson chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline, said: “We are facing the very real risk that debt becomes the norm for young people. While many will go on to earn enough to help them manage this early borrowing, many will not and this could have serious consequences for their futures.

“The more young people borrow as they set out in adult life, the harder it will be to start saving for the future and afford the homes and lifestyles that they rightly aspire to.”

Peter Tutton, head of policy at the StepChange debt charity, said: “We repeat our call on the government to introduce a new extended breathing space scheme, in which statutory protections are extended to people with temporary financial difficulties.

“Guaranteed freezes on interest and charges and a halt on enforcement action would help people to get back on their feet without falling further into debt.”

Figures from the British Bankers’ Association, published on Thursday, showed that demand for personal loans has been rising and has expanded over the past two years.