Yorkshire debt support charity plans to make 170 redundancies as demand drops during pandemic

A Yorkshire charity which helps people who have fallen into debt has announced plans to make 170 redundancies after demand for its services dropped significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

StepChange Debt Charity moved into new offices at 123 Albion Street in Leeds last year

Unite the Union is urging StepChange Debt Charity to reconsider to move, claiming it "will be overwhelmed" when Government support schemes which were introduced to help people during the pandemic end and demand increases.

The charity, which is based in Leeds, states it has taken the “difficult and painful decision” to make redundancies because demand has been “significantly suppressed” since March 2020.

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It helped around 200,000 people struggling with debt in 2020, 100,000 fewer than the previous year.

The majority of the charity’s funding comes from contributions creditors make when they help individuals make debt repayment, but it also receives some financial support from the Government.

A charity spokesman said: “This year is on track to see continuing reduced demand for debt advice.

“The inescapable reality is that our funding structure depends upon advice volume, which is why we are sadly having to introduce cost cutting measures that include, but are not limited to, redundancies.”

He added: "It is not what we would have wished to do, but we believe is the right thing to protect the long-term future of the charity.”

Unite regional officer Phil Boyes said the charity is “rushing into panicked plans for redundancies” and a socially distant protest was held outside the charity's Leeds headquarters yesterday.

He said: “The charity knows that it will be overwhelmed once demand picks up. That is why it is trying to introduce backup digital only services that will prove completely inadequate for the many vulnerable people who get in touch with StepChange for help.

“There is no reason whatsoever that under threat staff cannot be furloughed until September, when it is expected that demand for StepChange’s services will rocket.

“Our members have also put forward proposals for voluntary redundancies and temporary pay cuts, all of which have been ignored by management.”