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Deeper in Debt

24 May 2006
Credit and debt briefing cover

The profile of CAB debt clients

Deeper in debt: the profile of CAB debt clients [ 72 kb]


This report sets out the characteristics of Citizens Advice Bureau debt clients. The debt survey updates the 2003 Citizens Advice report, In too deep. It draws on survey data collected from 567 clients from 61 bureaux across England and Wales. What is clear is that debt is a continuing and often debilitating problem for an increasing number of people, with its effects often felt most strongly amongst the most vulnerable members of society.

Main findings

  • Nearly two in five households in this survey depended entirely on benefit income.
  • The average total household debt was £13,153, an increase of approximately 30 per cent between 2003 and 2006.
  • On average, debts were 17.5 times the client’s total monthly household income. This is a significant increase from 2001 when average debts were 14 times a client’s average total monthly household income.
  • Half of the clients in the survey had less than £20 per month to offer to all of their creditors, and over half of those had nothing to offer creditors at all.
  • On average it would take CAB debt clients who were able to make a repayment to their non-priority creditors 77 years to repay the debts at the amount offered.
  • Only 10 per cent had a positive balance in a bank or building society account and the average amount held was only £404. Forty four per cent had other assets, such as a vehicle, their home or a life insurance policy. However, in many cases the value of these assets may not be realisable.
  • Twenty three per cent of CAB debt clients in this survey had a disability or long-term illness.
  • Citizens Advice believes that a significant proportion of CAB clients will benefit from the Debt Relief Order proposed by the Insolvency Service.

Deeper in debt: the profile of CAB debt clients [ 72 kb]