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Difficult winter ahead for many UK households

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Money Charity predicts financial issues ahead for many people despite the economy starting to recover from the pandemic.

The charity warns that looming concerns include the forthcoming energy price increases, generally higher levels of inflation, and the planned removal of the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift in October.

The Money Charity says that with 5.9 million people now receiving Universal Credit, up from 2.9 million before the pandemic, many households will be significantly affected by the ending of the uplift, which has been in place since April 2020.

In the north east of England for example, a third of working age households will be affected and more widely, the cut is expected to have its biggest effect on those on the lowest Universal Credit rates. According to Citizens Advice, claimants who are single and under 25 years of age will lose one quarter of their Universal Credit.

At the same time, consumer prices rose 2% in the year to July 2021, with transport costs in particular rising steeply (+7.7%).

Rising wholesale energy costs have prompted Ofgem to lift the energy price cap by £139 to £153 per year in October, estimated as affecting 15 million households.

According to debt charities, council tax arrears have become an increasing source of financial pressure for many households, with more than 7 million people worried.

Finally, it is not yet clear how many of the 1.9 million people still on furlough at the end of June will have jobs to go back to as the programme winds down through July to September. It may be that a high proportion will find themselves unemployed and seeking other forms of state support.

On the positive side the ending of lockdown restrictions saw the UK economy grow by 1% in June 2021, while the unemployment rate fell to 4.7%.

Consumer credit debt continued to fall, decreasing by £9.3bn in the year to June 2021, while UK households felt able to take on an additional £17.9bn in mortgage debt in June 2021, to finance house purchases before the stamp duty holiday ended.

Over the past year, households have taken on an extra £76.6bn in mortgage debt, increasing house prices.

Michelle Highman, chief executive of The Money Charity, said: “All the signs are that the ‘easy’ part of the economic recovery is moving to an end and the coming winter looks like it may be challenging for many people. No doubt there will be many debates about the best response from government, but at the same time, people will need their financial management skills and judgement even more than usual.

“The Money Charity will be continuing to deliver our Financial Wellbeing and Financial Education programmes throughout the coming months, doing everything we can to help people across the UK better respond to the financial situations they find themselves in and building financial resilience for the future.”

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