Half of Brits struggling to pay bills as debt support charities see surge in activity

Words and report by ITV News Correspondent Dan Hewitt

More than half of Brits are struggling to pay their utility bills each month and one in four are finding it harder to make rent or mortgage payments, as people turn to credit cards, buy-now-pay-later companies and overdrafts to pay for essentials. 

A YouGov survey for ITV News has found 78% of Brits believe the government is handling the cost of living crisis badly, with almost nine in ten people (88%) concerned about rising costs.  

Debt charities are warning of a "new wave of people" being pushed into debt due to spiralling rent costs and higher interest rates. 

Almost one in four people surveyed (23%) either have less than £100 in savings or no savings at all.

Earlier this month The Bank of England hiked interest rates by 0.75% to 3%, pushing up mortgage payments for thousands of households and lenders increasing the cost of borrowing on credit cards and loans.

‘I’ve lived here for 28 years... where would my children live?’

Jennifer has fallen behind on her rent and she fears losing her home after living there for 28 years.

She told ITV News everything has "gone up" and she said she's fallen into debt by just trying to manage, "you pay one bill and another one comes in."

Our poll found 48% of people believe the rise will have a negative impact on their lives. 

Almost one in four people (24%) also said they are finding it harder to make credit card or loan payments. 

The survey found 15% of Brits are using their credit cards more than they were six months ago; of those two-thirds are using it to pay for day-to-day items and essentials. 

More than one in ten (11%) are using buy-now-pay-later loans more frequently; the same number of people are also going to in their overdrafts to make ends meet.

‘I will not sleep on the streets... I’m 63’

Of those using their overdrafts, 72% said it was to pay for essential items and 22% said it was to pay their rent.

Debt advice charities have told ITV News more people are coming to them for help as the cost-of-living bites.

Lenny, who was attending a debt advice support group, told ITV News he was in debt to his landlord.

He said: "I will not sleep in the streets, especially in winter, I'm 63, I've got asthma, my back has gone, my legs have gone because I've been doing removals for 30 years, I can't afford to be on the streets."

StepChange and Christians Against Poverty have both reported an increase in enquiries. 

Experiencing an ‘increase in the cost of living’ is now the most common reason for debt among StepChange clients.

‘Those that are poorest are going to be the ones that suffer the most’

The proportion of people citing it has increased from 9% in January 2022 to 22% in September 2022, overtaking unexpected loss of income due to ill-health and redundancy for needing help with debt. 

Around one third (34%) of all new clients are behind on their gas, electricity, or dual fuel bills, up 4% since January.

Charities are warning it could get worse, with more people turning to borrowing to make ends meet. 

Debt advisor Jon Taylor from Christian’s Against Poverty told us: 

"You’ve got people who have been in debt for some time due to ill-health or a loss of job, the standard stuff.  

"But now there’s a new wave of people coming who were either okay or had a little bit of debt but were just able to make those repayments, and now those people are just getting pushed over the edge. 

"With spiralling rent costs and (increasing) interest rates my worry is those that are poorest are the ones that are going to suffer the most."

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