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Quarter of adults rely on credit to pay for everyday essentials

Quarter of adults rely on credit to pay for everyday essentials
Matt Browning
Written By:
Matt Browning

A quarter of adults in the UK have used credit to pay for household costs and groceries, a charity finds.

The reliance on borrowing to pay for everyday essentials comes as nine million people are finding it difficult to keep up with their bills and credit repayments, according to StepChange.

There is also a cycle of borrowing that can lead to financial problems down the line, with a fifth of people using credit to pay for their repayments.

Indeed, over half of the 2,000 respondents surveyed struggled to keep up with the cost of keeping on top of their credit card.

The knock-on effects of this spiral of debt include a negative impact on people’s mental and physical health too. This impacted almost half (49%) and a third (31%) of UK adults respectively.

Also, nearly half have made cutbacks on the use of their heating, electricity or water to keep their head above water. Just under a third (29%) have asked for help from family and friends to keep up with their credit card repayments.

Meanwhile, the issue has also hit homeowners too, with a quarter of all mortgage holders taking credit out to keep up with their borrowing commitments.

This is more than renters or those who have different living arrangements, too.

Despite the situation millions of borrowers find themselves in, almost half (45%) of those struggling with repayments have been offered more credit by their lender in the shape of a new card, a bigger existing limit or a loan.

‘Problem debt can escalate quickly’

Peter Tutton, head of policy, research and public affairs at StepChange, has called for the actions of lenders to improve following the implementation of the new Consumer Duty rules.

Tutton said: “It’s not uncommon for someone to rely on credit when they are in a tight spot with their finances, but it’s a real indicator of difficulty if someone is regularly borrowing to cover life’s everyday costs, and it’s at that point where problem debt can escalate quickly.

“The new Consumer Duty has sent a welcome message that the Financial Conduct Authority [FCA] expects higher standards from consumer lenders, but the reality is that as many people as ever are struggling with harmful financial difficulty.”

The regulation, introduced in July last year, set out to improve the standards of financial services, including the prevention of misleading and fraudulent practices.

Trutton also said that, as well as help from the industry given at an early stage to those in a borrowing spiral, he wants a “harder look at lending rules that make it too easy for people struggling with living costs to slip into serious debt”.

“We’d also like to see the Government urgently regulate interest-free buy now, pay later [BNPL], which is now almost as commonly used overdrafts, and work to scale up safer alternatives to desperation borrowing like a national no-interest loan scheme”, he added.