Households struggle with smaller debts on everyday bills
Debt problems have changed in the decade since the financial crisis with many people struggling to repay debt of £5,000 or less.
According to National Debtline, run by the Money Advice Trust, fewer people are seeking advice on credit cards, loans or overdrafts. Instead, 50% of callers grapple to repay ‘smaller but trickier’ debts such as council tax, rent and energy. This figure is up from 22% recorded in 2008.
As part of its ‘A decade in debt’ report, the charity revealed that 30% of callers have council tax arrears, up from 15% in 2008. Those with rent arrears has increased from 6% to 17%, while those struggling to repay energy bills has risen from 9% to 14% in the same period.
Calls to the charity has risen every year since 2015 and it expects the number to hit 189,000 by the end of the year – the highest level in five years.
Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, said: “We need to change how we think about problem debt in the UK.
“Ten years ago a typical caller to National Debtline was struggling to pay credit cards and personal loans. Today, callers are struggling with smaller but trickier debts, usually on everyday household bills – and often caused by ‘broken budgets’, where the money coming in is simply not enough to cover essential spending.”
The Money Advice Trust has set out a number of recommendations for the government, regulators, creditors and the advice sector to tackle these issues. It wants to see the following:
- A cross-government strategy to reduce problem debt, bringing together government departments, agencies and regulators into a single, coherent approach
- The government’s planned ‘Breathing Space’ scheme provides protections for people seeking advice from all types of creditors – including utility companies, local authorities, DWP and HMRC
- Further action from the Financial Conduct Authority on persistent credit card debt, unauthorised overdrafts and extending its payday loan cost cap to other forms of high-cost credit.