Managing household debts: Social service provision in the EU

This project is examining the extent of the personal debt problem (property, utilities, credit cards, loans/mortgages) and is seeking to identify what strategies are in place to advise and support people in debt - as part of the social services response to exclusion.

The current financial crisis caused unemployment levels to rise, with the lagged impact still to be felt. This combination of factors lead to elevated prevalence of over-indebtedness among households. In turn, the crisis exacerbated both public and private debt problems. Public debate focuses on government debts, with somewhat less attention for private debts. Above all for the short and mid-term, household over-indebtedness deserves more attention.

A workshop held in Brussels in June 2010 discussed preventive and alleviative measures and the role of social services in this matter (see Workshop report).

Eurofound first did desk research and quantitative data analysis to assess the problem, find out what factors are important in explaining debt problems, and what is being done about it across the EU. This resulted in a working paper, published in 2010.

In the next phase, Eurofound built on this exploratory research in a larger project, mainly focusing on how access to and quality of debt advisory services can be improved. It includes case studies from debt advisory services in various EU Member States. Results can be found in the 2012 research report Household debt advisory services in the European Union.

More recently, Eurofound published Household over-indebtedness in the EU: The role of informal debts. This policy brief highlighted findings from the European Quality of Life Survey and brought results of the analysis of these data together with evidence from other Eurofound projects to formulate a number of policy pointers.