Debt charities warn thousands could face money crisis when lockdown eases

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Mary Stanley

Families have been telling ITV Meridian about their battle with debt at a time when there's a warning thousands of people across the south could be facing a money crisis as lockdown eases.

Many are already struggling to pay bills and it is feared the situation will get worse when the furlough scheme and rise in Universal Credit come to an end.  

Debt charities are concerned many people are burying their heads in the sand over their money worries and are urging them to get help now.

Laura Nash

Laura Nash from Alton knows what it's like to live in debt, from rent and council tax to credit card and catalogues.

She says: "I had bailiffs coming knocking at my door, county court judgements.

"I was at a point where I was like an ostrich burying my head in the sand, thinking forget about it, it will go away. But it never did."

Laura was struggling with debt before the pandemic, but it hasn't helped that in the first lockdown she was furloughed from her job.

Jade Bone

Mum-of-three Jade Bone and her partner owed £50,000 in various debts.

Jade says: "It was so horrible. Just wondering about who you are going to pay, who's more important. Not having enough money to get even the basic food.

"I was in tears most of the day."

But Laura and Jade sought help from an organisation called Christians Against Poverty, which works with them and those they owe money to, setting up payment plans and helping clear their debts and giving advice on budgeting.  

Jade says: "It was good just having someone take control because I obviously was not in control of my debts and money. 

"Paying into the CAP plan every month that helped; it was a manageable amount each month."Not having the weight on my shoulders having to deal with all the different debtors, they did all of that for me."

Mark Rumsby from Christians Against Poverty says: "They've been too pre-occupied with Covid, with the restrictions, with family life, with home schooling. 

"We really wish they would come forward because the debts are the same, they are even mounting because people aren't paying them and they'll only get worse."

Mark Rumsby from Christians Against Poverty

Sandy O'Neill from Citizens Advice is urging people in debt to seek help before the problem gets out of hand.

She says: "They tend to come to you when there's a bailiff knocking on the door or they've had a notice about court action or repossession. That tends to be what drives people to us. 

"So having had this whole year of protection, I think people have been sitting on their debt and not taking action because they haven't felt they've really needed to."I think we are going to see a lot of people losing their homes, a lot of people seeing their debt escalate because of bailiff fees and court fees so I think the most important thing for people to do is to get advice as soon as possible."

Jade is now debt free and after 3 years Laura is a few months away from paying off what she owes.

They say asking for help was the best thing they ever did.

Laura says: "I don't have to worry about the bailiffs coming knocking at my door. That's gone. I don't need to worry anymore."

Click the links below for information on seeking help with debt: