To elevate debt advice services in the EU, it is important to understand the current state of debt advice in European countries. It is necessary to create a base level of knowledge before it is possible to create and carry out initiatives to improve debt advice services on an EU level.
It is estimated that 50.000 Slovakian citizens are undergoing personal bankruptcy, while more than 200.000 households live below the official EU level of poverty. Additionally, there are approximately 1 billion euros of unpaid debt in Slovakia.
Therefore, we carried out an interview with Dr. Peter Daniel from Slovakia, to discuss the current debt advice services in Slovakia. Dr. Daniel works in the private sector in Slovakia as an accounting director in a global corporation.
In Slovakia, legal and financial advice is commercialized, meaning that marginalized citizens do not have access to advice services. However, there are no advisory initiatives that focus on debt and over-indebtedness.
Dr. Daniel, with his colleagues, has initiated the establishment of free debt advice services in Slovakia, named ‘Free Debt Advisory’. This initiative is the first of such size in Slovakia.
The objective is to create 46 free debt advice sites in Slovakia. Each of these sites will be connected to a local ministry of social affairs, family, and labor office. These sites will predominately be funded by EU funds, and be structured in the same manner:
Each site will have four employees consisting of one administrator and three advisors.
The three advisors will each have different educational backgrounds, specializing in financial advice, legal advice, and psychological and social advice.
To ensure the quality and standards of the debt advice service, all employees will be trained in the good practice of debt advice. Currently, the Free Debt Advisory has opened two sites, in Slovakia, and hiring for seven other sites.
While the debt advice services in Slovakia have a long way to go, this initiative is truly a step in the right direction. The political and governmental support for the Free Debt Advisory is a standard that can be adopted in many EU countries, in the fight against over-indebtedness.