Low income and debt problems inquiry

Closed 31 Mar 2022

Opened 15 Feb 2022

Published responses

View submitted responses where consent has been given to publish the response.


The Social Justice and Social Security Committee want to understand the challenges faced by people with low incomes and debt problems.

People on low incomes are more likely to run up debt relating to essential services, such as rent, council tax and fuel bills. They are also more likely to be affected by increased costs of living and the rising price of food and toiletries. The impact of redundancy and furlough during the Coronavirus pandemic may have made the situation worse for some people.

We want to understand how people on low incomes, with problem debt, access support. As part of our inquiry, we will look at:

  • the types of debt commonly experienced by this group
  • what improvements could be made to debt processes and the legislative framework


In November 2021, the Committee held an informal evidence session with money advisers and people on low incomes with debt problems. The Committee is now going to look in more detail at the key themes raised to find what could make things better. Issues included:

  • digital exclusion, with a lack of skills, confidence and financial means to use online services being a major barrier
  • the stigma people felt in admitting they had a debt problem, which delayed action to get support
  • problems accessing free money advice, including:
    • with online information directing people to paid-for services
    • difficulty identifying relevant services
    • issues with free services being over-stretched
  • health – particularly mental health – problems associated with debt
  • problems with formal debt solutions and debts to essential services.

Key questions

Digital exclusion

  1. How does digital exclusion affect people’s experience of debt and seeking money advice? For example, your answer could cover:
    • dealing with creditors
    • finding information
    • engaging with money advice services
  2. Are there examples of good practice which reduce barriers created by digital exclusion?

Accessing money advice

  1. What are the barriers to accessing money advice for people with low incomes and debt problems? For example, your answer could cover:
    • stigma
    • referrals from other agencies
    • accessing good quality information about sources of advice
    • the existence of local services
  2. Are free money advice services able to meet demand?

Debt and mental health

  1. How does having a debt problem impact on people’s mental health? For example, your answer could cover:
    • what role can debt have in creating mental health issues or making existing mental health problems worse?
    • how can mental health issues affect people's ability to engage with debt advice services and creditors?
  2. Are there examples of specific research looking at the relationship between debt and mental health issues?
  3. Are you able to provide “good practice” examples of projects which work to reduce the mental health impact of debt?

The legal framework for dealing with debt

  1. Does the current legal framework for formal debt solutions – in other words, bankruptcy, Protected Trust Deeds and the Debt Arrangement Scheme - meet the needs of people on low incomes with debt problems?
  2. Have recent reforms to bankruptcy laws helped people on low incomes with debt problems?
  3. Do you have any suggested changes to the law in this area?

Essential services

  1. What are the main types of debt that people on low incomes with debt problems are likely to have?
  2. Do processes to deal with rent arrears (including private sector rent arrears) and council tax arrears support people on low incomes to deal with their debt problems?
  3. Do you have any suggested changes to the law or practices in this area?

How to submit your views

Please submit your views using the online submission form, linked to below.

We welcome written views in English, Gaelic, Scots or any other language. 

The call for views closes on 31 March 2022.


  • SJSS