The Scottish Government has published plans to create a free debt advice system after powers were devolved to Holyrood.
A report published on Saturday outlines its new approach, developed with help from a steering group made up of current advice services and local authorities as part of the Tackling Problem Debt Group (TPDG).
Powers over the funding of such services, known as the debt advice levy, were devolved to Scotland on January 1 this year.
The Tackling Problem Debt Advice report states 14.2% of people in Scotland struggle with problem debts – meaning they find it hard to keep up with paying the money back and covering their bills – and just 20% of those affected seek advice.
It also claims growing numbers of people seeking advice may have contributed to low staff morale and high turnover at current advice services.
Under the outline for the new system, the Scottish Government is seeking to make the process more centred on users and more sustainable in the long-term by providing adequate funding and ensuring the necessary staffing levels.
Under the new “road map”, the Scottish Government has set out nine actions to be taken to ensure debt services work best for Scottish users.
These include driving technological innovation, working with the sector to develop comprehensive workforce planning and the start of multi-year funding pledges – which will allow the services to plan for the future, particularly on staffing levels.
Business Minister Jamie Hepburn said: “Problem debt can increase stress and strain on families and friendships and it often affects those who are already struggling.
“Sadly, these issues can become a greater strain at Christmastime.
“Early intervention can help mitigate the damaging effects of problem debt but people often delay getting help, or advice providers struggle to meet demand.
“This plan sets out our ambition to create a free debt advice system that responds to the needs of those who seek it, offers more joined up services and has adequate funding to survive and provide high quality services.”
The reshuffle includes the Scottish Government pledging to hold roundtable meetings with providers to streamline services, as well as launching a Scotland-only marketing campaign, to raise public awareness of the services on offer.
The Scottish Government has also pledged to assess projects launched next year “to ensure opportunities and challenges of this new approach are well understood”.