Our ambition: A Debt Free London

Our ambition: A Debt Free London

Toynbee Hall offers free and impartial, expert debt advice


By Matt Dronfield, Head of Debt Free London

A staggering 1.6 million Londoners live every day with problem debt. They might face arrears for punishingly high rent or for council tax. Matt Dronfield, Head of Debt Free London, the London-wide debt advice partnership shares what we’re doing to achieve our ambition of a debt free london.


They might be struggling to pay off high interest loans, store card or credit card debts, or owe money to friends and family who’ve helped out. Or it might be a combination of all these things. Whatever the reasons, it’s a bleak picture, with huge consequences for ordinary Londoners, their families and communities.

Our ambition is for a Debt Free London, and our partnership of 26 charities works in every community across the capital to help people find ways of getting themselves out of the trap of debt.

Last year, our partnership worked directly with over 25,000 Londoners. It was a year in which demand for our services reached record levels and we helped more people than ever deal with debt and the difficulties it brings.

Yet these numbers alone don’t tell the full story. What’s struck us most in recent times is the rising complexity of cases we’re seeing – people getting ever deeper into debt, experiencing mental health issues or even contemplating suicide as a result of the financial problems they face.


90% of the people we see say that debt has affected their health.

More and more single people are coming to us for help because the funds they have – whether from universal credit, other benefits, or low-paid work – simply aren’t enough to cover their basic living costs.

Against this troubling backdrop, we’ve been doing everything we can to be there for those who need us and offer the sustained, long-term help that can change so many lives.

I’m immensely proud that our partnership includes a holistic set of services – providing not only traditional debt management assistance, but also help with housing, employment issues, disability and illness. When someone comes to us we consider the whole picture and prescribe the course of action that most closely fits an individual’s needs. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ approach, it’s personal. That’s why I believe it’s so effective.

We’re prioritising the training of new advisers, so more people can have help when they need it. We’re making our services more accessible and visible through a new website, advertising campaign and helpline, so people know where to turn. And we’re focusing on quality so that people really do get the best possible support and advice to help them break free from debt.

Now – as we look to the future – we’re determined to keep up the momentum and encourage even more people to come to us for help. In this report you can discover what we’ve learned over the last 12 months and read real stories of struggling Londoners who were supported by our partnership and given the chance to turn things around.

But there are still huge challenges ahead and we need the Government, local authorities, banks and financial institutions to play their part and share our commitment to making London debt free.

Our vision is to make getting out of debt no more complicated than getting into it – to make debt advice services as approachable, modern and responsive as they can be. On pages 23-25, you’ll see some of the ways we’re working towards that vision.

We hope you share that vision and belief that together, we can make it a reality. With heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in our partnership.


Read the Working for Debt Free London Report here

Working for a Debt Free London - Impact Report 2018-2019

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