Cost of Living Crisis sees more calls to Free Debt Helplines

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Australians struggling with debt and cost-of-living pressures are turning to free and independent debt helplines in their thousands.

Calls and chats to the National Debt Helpline (NDH) and the Small Business Debt Helpline (SBDH) have soared over the past 12 months. Both services are coordinated by Financial Counselling Australia.

“In February NDH dealt with 14,871 enquiries. That’s a 17% increase on February 2023 when there were 12,737 calls and chats,” said Dr Domenique Meyrick, co-CEO of Financial Counselling Australia.

“Financial counsellors with SBDH had an even bigger increase, with 82% more cases over the same period. Last month they dealt with 392 cases compared with 215 in February 2023,” Dr Meyrick said.

The two national not-for-profit organisations help individuals and small businesses cope with financial hardship.

The main areas of concern for those contacting NDH were:

  • Housing (mortgage stress and rental arrears)
  • Energy bills
  • General cost of living struggles
  • Scams
  • ATO debt

The main areas of concern for those contacting SBDH were:

  • Tax debts
  • Business loan repayments
  • Servicing debts to suppliers
  • Retail and commercial lease debts
  • Business viability

“This data shows us the current cost of living crisis is really having a big impact for so many people,” Dr Meyrick said.

“We urge financial firms, utilities and government bodies, like the ATO, to be compassionate and fair with their customers. They should ensure they have good hardship practices to help people get through these tough times.”

One area of particular concern is the fact that many small business loans are with firms that are not members of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority and may have less accessible and less developed hardship arrangements.

“We’re also concerned about how the ATO deals with hardship. It needs to introduce a strong vulnerability framework to better support people with tax debts.”

SBDH got more referrals from the ATO in February 2024 than from any other source, including internet searches.

The above is a media release from FCA, you can find the original media release here (

Anyone who is struggling financially can contact the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 or visit

Small business owners and sole traders can call the Small Business Debt Helpline on 1800 413 828 or visit

For comment please contact Maura Angle on 0418 334 121 or email