Showing debt in real-time: lightbulb moments

posted by in Budgeting

Our Helpline receive over 200,000 calls each year and is on the front line of debt.

For many of our clients the first voice of reason they hear is that of a StepChange Debt Charity Helpline advisor trying to discover what the problem is, and the first steps on how to resolve it. This is what many people, especially on MoneySavingExpert, call “the lightbulb moment”.

Helpline advisor is an invaluable role and one that we highlighted last year, when we reported from the team during one of our busiest days of 2011. That day we received 1625 calls and a whopping £109m worth of reported debt.

This year we decided to focus on those stats again, but from a different angle.

To show how many people were having their lightbulb moment over one day and deciding to call us, we used Google Maps to show where we received these calls from: this was our first real-time debt map, updated every hour across Monday 6th February 2012.

Click on the link under the map to see the full version, and if you want to see if anyone called from your neck of the woods, put the first half of your postcode in the search box and press on the magnifier button.

View Where has someone had a lightbulb moment today? in a full screen map.

Unfortunately the lightbulb moment doesn’t strike straight away, at the moment people fall into unmanageable debt; some people just don’t realise that they’re past the point of no return for weeks, months or even years.

But when that moment of clarity hits and they actually do something about it, that’s the point at which they make their first positive step towards becoming debt free. We celebrated that first step last week.

Mapping the debt

From a technical point of view this is the first time we showed, in near real-time, where in the UK we received phone calls from and the total debt per postcode district. While we only updated the live map on an hourly basis you can see the hotspots of where debt advice was needed as it happened.

This was a first test of mapping debt in real time (and it doesn’t replace our fantastic Debt View statistics), but we hope that it’ll become a tool we can use again and again to show what’s happening as it happens.

If you’ve had your lightbulb moment and need debt advice use our online counselling service Debt Remedy or contact us.

When did you have your lightbulb moment? Tell us on our Facebook thread.

At StepChange Debt Charity we want you to be free of debt and save money.

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