Our research suggests that the financial cost of Covid is starting to hit home.
Comparing the first eight weeks of 2022 to the same period in 2021, there’s been a 23% increase in benefits issues. The number of debts people are juggling has also increased.
The escalating debt problem is evident in Twerton, an area of considerable and persistent deprivation. Comparing the same time period, there’s been a 16% increase in debt issues. A worrying doubling in credit card debt issues suggests people are managing costs with cards and creating worse debt problems.
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What is causing these financial problems?
Debt is complex and we’ve found that it’s usually not caused by bad budgeting. Unfortunately, there is such a stigma of shame attached to debt that people don’t seek help when they really should.
The tragedy of Covid-19 has revealed to many how just about anyone can suddenly find themselves in unmanageable debt. Many have lost money, either due to furlough, losing a job because a business closed down or are not able to work due to long-Covid.
Others have had to endure even worse. Losing a loved one may have meant also losing financial support and having to pay unexpected funeral expenses.
Combined with the cut to Universal Credit and escalating prices for fuel and store goods, people are rapidly finding it harder to manage.
The financial cost of Covid for our charity
We can help these people, but lockdowns have created an issue for us.
Closing our face-to-face service and switching to digital advice channels created new clients. Now, as we seek to reopen our face-to-face service, we also have to maintain our online service for those new digital clients.
How are we acting to provide help?
We’ve launched an appeal to boost funding so we can train more advisers.
This will enable us to answer more calls for help, by dealing with referrals, having more people on our Adviceline service, and conducting outreach.
Lockdown showed us that there are still many people in the region who are living in digital poverty. They may find it difficult to access online help.
The latter face-to-face aspect of this project is designed to help people in those situations, by taking advice to their communities.