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Chief executive to leave StepChange

Mike O’Connor, chief executive of StepChange Debt Charity, will leave the organisation later this year.

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Mike O’Connor, chief executive of StepChange Debt Charity
Mike O’Connor, chief executive of StepChange Debt Charity

He has been with the free advice charity for nearly four years and was previously a non-executive member of the customer fairness committee at British Gas.

 

StepChange has now began the process of recruiting a successor which is likely to take until the end of the year and O’Connor will remain in the position until then.

 

The charity helped 600,000 people last year – equating to one person every 53 seconds. This figure increased by nine percent from 550,000 in 2015.

 

The profile of the charity’s client base has also changed. Around 60 percent of all clients are aged under 40 compared to five years ago when this figure was only at eight percent.

 

During his time in the position as chief executive, O’Connor has called on creditors to introduce “breathing space” for customers. The charity has lobbied for a scheme that allows debtors to repay their debts in full, with charges frozen, through a debt payment programme over an extended period.

 

Since this campaign was launched, both the Conservative and Labour parties have pledged to introduce breathing space as part of their manifestos for the upcoming election.

 

O’Connor has welcomed this and said the next government should work to ensure better alternatives to dangerous forms of high-cost credit are available.

 

He added: “With consumer borrowing back at levels not seen since the economic crisis and continuing to grow strongly, the next government needs to commit to a concerted effort to tackle problem debt.”

 

On leaving the company, O’Connor said: “I have enjoyed working at the charity. Looking back, I have seen people who get into problem debt blamed. I hope we can help increase understanding of the true causes of problem debt and demonstrate that helping people when they are in trouble, however they got there, is not only good for them but their families, their communities and indeed our economy.

 

"Looking forward, the current growth in personal debt, inflation and stagnant wages will, I fear, mean that the need for free debt advice will grow and charities like StepChange, working with creditors, will be even more needed in the future."

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