ACCORDING to recent research from Citizens Advice, 14 per cent of the population, equivalent to seven million people, have fallen into debt because of coronavirus and lockdown restrictions.
Citizens Advice’s research indicates the situation is particularly tough for certain groups. People who were furloughed or made redundant plus parents, carers and BAME groups are all more likely to have fallen behind.
Forty-five per cent of people with children have lost household income and over half of the parents in the survey said they had already cut down on regular and non-essential spending to ensure their children don’t go without.
The levels of debt are greatest for rent and council tax arrears and it is here that the consequences of non-payment are most severe including the prospect of eviction and homelessness.
As part of the latest lockdown, government has extended the ban on bailiff enforced evictions until at least February 21.
Responding to the announcement, Alistair Cromwell, acting chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The government has made the right decision to extend this protection. Renters who are struggling with arrears shouldn’t face the prospect of losing the roof over their head when everyone is being asked to stay at home.
“However, there are still hundreds of thousands of people in arrears and this debt will continue to hang over them. The government should put in place targeted financial support for tenants in England who’ve fallen behind on their rent.”
If you are falling behind paying essential household bills consider the tips below and think about seeking help.
Citizens Advice’s six top tips to help with your debts:
1) Work out how much you owe – make a list of whom you owe money to and add up how much you need to pay each month. If you don’t have your most recent statements, contact your creditor to find out what you owe.
2) Prioritise your debts – your rent or mortgage, energy and council tax are called priority debts as there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay them. Separate these and work out how much you owe. Some creditors will have special arrangements for people with Covid-related arrears.
3) Work out how much you can pay – create a budget by adding up your essential living costs, such as food and housing, and taking these away from your income. Any money you have spare can be put towards your debts.
4) Paying urgent debts – you might have to contact priority creditors quickly in urgent situations, like if you are about to be evicted. Most tenants cannot be evicted without a court order, and where the court has already made an order, evictions are paused until February 21. Tell your creditors you’re seeking debt advice.
5) Paying non-urgent debts – if you have any money left after paying priority debts, but not enough to make your usual payments, consider getting advice on the best way for you to start getting on top of your debts. Or contact your creditors and offer them what you can afford to pay.
6) If you can’t pay your debts – if you’ve got little or no money spare to pay your priority debts seek advice from Citizens Advice straight away. If you’re struggling to pay for basics like food, seek help immediately to see what support might be available to you.
During COVID restrictions, Bridport & District Citizens Advice offers comprehensive advice on debt and other issues. Telephone freephone 0800 144 8848 or send an email using the contact form on the website www.bridportca.org.uk or leave a message on 01308 456594. You will be called back to help you find a way forward.