Local businesses in Bath & North East Somerset are trying to help mitigate the impact of the cost of living crisis.
Metro Bank, Matheson Charles and Unividual have joined up in support of their local Citizens Advice. The charity aims to train more advisers to help people with their money problems and is looking for local support to do so.
Why do people need help with the cost of living crisis?
Simon Lawson, CEO of the local office, explained how it is seldom the case that money worries are about not being able to budget. He said: “Increasing prices aren’t the only factor putting pressure on people. Many may be dealing with multiple issues of losing a loved one who may have supported them financially. They may also have to pay for funeral costs.
“Others may have lost their jobs due to Covid restrictions causing a business to close. Long-Covid has also prevented many people from work for long periods or having to stop work altogether.”
How bad is the cost of living crisis getting locally?
Citizens Advice in Bath&NES report that debt issues were already up 25% in 2021 compared to data from 2020. Aso, the first two months of 2022 shows the problem is growing as people have to juggle more debts.
MP for Bath, Wera Hobhouse had this to say: “More and more residents are struggling to keep up with soaring energy, petrol and food prices. This is forcing individuals and families to make extremely difficult choices about how they allocate their diminishing budgets, which in turn has a hugely negative impact on mental health. The expert advice Citizens Advice provides can be truly life-changing and is in greater demand than ever. I am delighted to see local employers supporting this vital service.”
The escalating debt problem is evident in Twerton, an area that has experienced considerable and persistent deprivation. Comparing the first two months of 2022 and 2021, credit and store card debt issues have more than doubled. This suggests that residents may be seeking alternative ways of dealing with the cost of living crisis. The result may be that they end up with even worse debt problems.
How are Citizens Advice and local business helping with the cost of living crisis?
Talking about the positives, Mr Lawson said: “Our expert team of advisers has made a real difference for clients across the region. In the first two months of the year, they have generated nearly £1million in financial outcomes for clients and £270,000 of that has been for people in Twerton.”
“However, there are still people out there who need help with this cost of living crisis. So, we’re extremely grateful to these local businesses for supporting our efforts to train more advisers so we can help more residents.”
Cherie-Anne Baxter, Part-Owner of Bath’s financial advice service, Unividual, said: “Devastating global events like COVID and Russia’s attack on Ukraine are affecting people and businesses across the world. So, we’re happy to support local efforts to help people with their money worries.
What can people do to try and manage their finances as prices rise?
Cherie-Anne went on to say: “Financial issues can be overwhelming and affect many aspects of our lives. Knowing where you stand with your finances is a relief in itself and is an important step in setting goals. It’s then much easier to form good financial habits.”
Understanding client financial situations is something Citizens Advice does through debt assessments and is essential when giving advice.
The charity’s debt team leader had this advice for residents with debts: “Focus on your priority debts first, like council tax, rent and energy bills.”
“Don’t be pressured into paying credit card companies first just because they’re making the most noise.”
“And seek advice before things become unmanageable.”
The need to seek advice was something echoed by Chris Mapp, Local Director of Metro Bank in Bath. He said: “Many people are struggling with the cost of living, which has rocketed due to a combination of factors. Anyone worried about how they are going to manage should seek help immediately.”