Citizens Advice has warned that many UK residents are struggling with unpaid household bills due to lockdown. According to the charity, this will cause a wave of debt, unless financial support is given.
New research has revealed that one in nine people (roughly six million people in the UK) have reported falling behind with their household bills.
What else did the charity’s research find?
Out of the six million struggling with debts due to lockdown, one in 10 have found themselves in a position where they are unable to afford food. Additionally, one in five out of this six million, have had to sell their possessions to keep up with their debts and the cost of living.
The Citizens Advice survey found that one in four people, who are either parents or carers, have been unable to pay their household bills. It also found that one in five key workers were in the same predicament.
One in five of those who had to shield due to a health condition during lockdown have also found themselves behind on their regular payments.
Concerns as furlough scheme draws to a close
During lockdown the government introduced some measures to help protect people’s income if they were unable to work due to the pandemic.
Nearly 10 million workers had their wages paid by the government under the furlough scheme. However the initiative is set to end in October.
Director of external affairs for Citizens Advice, Katie Martin, has raised concerns over the economic impact of coronavirus adding to inequality.
“It's often those that were struggling most before the crisis that are struggling now,” she said.
“We are urging the government to take some action to make sure people can recover from these debts quickly and get back on the road to recovery as the economy recovers.”
Martin does not believe the impact of coronavirus on the economy is being felt equally across the nation and believes the government, creditors and individuals should share the cost in as fair a way as possible.
She explained, “We don't think it should be handed out. We think there could be interest-free loans where appropriate but that is really something we need to work through and see what's right for different areas.”
What should I do if I am struggling financially?
Citizens Advice has urged anyone who is struggling with bills and debts not to wait to seek help with the situation.
“The most important thing is that people take action really, really quickly,” said Martin.
“Talking to the people you owe money to, you can often arrange repayment plans or reduced amounts. That's the most important thing - that you don't pretend it's not happening."
Additionally, the Citizens Advice website has a specific webpage dedicated to helping those who are struggling with bills due to coronavirus.
It suggests seeking help from an advisor, either by calling Adviceline on 03444 111 444, or talking to an advisor online. You can discuss a debt problem online with a Citizens Advice advisor from 8am to 7pm, Monday to Friday.
Meanwhile, the charity’s online advisor services for any other kind of problem is open between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.
Additionally the website emphasises that it is “worth speaking to the organisations you owe money to - they might be able to help by letting you pay smaller amounts or take a break.”
“Some bills can cause you more problems if you don’t pay them,” says the Citizens Advice website. You can check which bills you should pay first here.