Citizens Advice has called on the government to take swift and significant action to help the millions of people who’ve fallen into debt in recent months through no fault of their own.
The charity has published research which shows more than six million people living in the UK have fallen behind with their household bills because of the coronavirus crisis and the associated lockdown.
“As the government takes steps to try to kickstart the economy, it must not forget the millions who’ve fallen into debt because of a crisis no-one could have foreseen,” said Citizens Advice’s chief executive Dame Gillian Guy in a statement.
“Protections put in place by the government, businesses and regulators have staved off the worst consequences of lockdown debt - so far. But with these measures beginning to end, millions will now face the repercussions.”
Among the issues highlighted by the charity’s latest research is that a disproportionately high number of people who look after others have been impacted financially by the virus crisis, as have those who have been required to shield themselves from the virus as much as possible.
The figures suggest that one in nine people in the UK have fallen behind with their bills because of coronavirus but that ratio climbs to one in four among carers and one in five among ‘shielders’.
Another major worry is simply that so many people have seen their incomes reduced recently that huge numbers have found themselves unable to avoid entering debt to make ends meet.
“It is not right that people who’ve followed government guidance by shielding, stayed at home to care for others, been forced to work less, or lost their jobs altogether should be the ones left facing a financial black hole,” said Dame Gillian.
“Government and businesses must help them now. Financial support for those who’ve fallen into debt must be prioritised to free them from the damaging consequences of long-term debt, and help strengthen the economic recovery.”
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The emergency £20 increase to Universal Credit payments introduced in response to the Covid pandemic could be taken away from prospective recipients from April next year.
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