'Will there be an end?' County Durham DJ racking up debt after Covid support and cost of living rise

A County Durham DJ says he can’t see a time when he might be free of debt, after “falling through the cracks” and missing out on government support during the Covid pandemic.

Paul Corbett, from Watt Street in Murton, works six nights a week as a DJ across Sunderland and County Durham.

But he’s having to find a way to pay back debts and arrears to his energy company, at a time when prices for everything from fuel to food are going up.

Paul needs his car to move his equipment between gigs, but has taken out a £5,000 loan to keep it running. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

“It's really hard, I’m in more debt now than I’ve ever been,” says Paul.

He says that during the pandemic his life was on hold. “I wasn’t living my life for 18 months,”

“I was stuck in my house. No income, no support off the government or anything.”

Paul only became a full-time self-employed DJ in 2019, so he wasn’t eligible for the government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. That meant he was forced to rely on Universal Credit, leaving him unable to keep up with his bills.

Paul now owes his energy company more than £1,000 and is also in arrears for other bills, including his council tax. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

He’s also had to take out a £5,000 government Bounce Back Loan in order to keep his car, which he needs to move his equipment between gigs.

On the question of whether he can see a time when he might be out of debt, Paul said, “at the moment, no.”

He added, “I don't know when it's going to happen, and if there’s an end. Will there be an end?”

And with the general cost of living rising it’s even harder for him to see a way out of debt.

Paul describes recent increases in fuel prices as “absolutely astronomical”. But he points out that it’s not just fuel - the costs of everything from car servicing to tyres have gone up in recent months.

Right now the DJ is working harder than ever, just to keep the show on the road.

ITV News Tyne Tees is reporting from Watt Street in Murton, County Durham, on the impact of the cost of living crisis. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees