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Here's what to do if you're struggling financially in Wales

Shelter Cymru urges people not to be afraid to ask for help if they find themselves struggling Credit: PA

As many as 1 in 4 people are now living in poverty in Wales, and figures show average earnings are £50 a week lower than the rest of the UK.

So what should you do if you're struggling to make ends meet?

  • Bills

It can be difficult to know where to start when bills start mounting.

The Citizens Advice advises people to prioritise rent arrears over other debts in order to prevent you from losing your home.

They similarly advise speaking to mortgage providers at the earliest opportunity if you are struggling to pay, as this can stop the lender from pursuing court action against you.

In terms of energy bills and council tax, Citizens Advice suggests contacting suppliers and the council in order to try and arrange payment plans to help spread the cost.

Citizens Advice says although credit card debt can build quickly and be a real worry, it's important to first sort out any other debts like arrears on your mortgage, energy bills or council tax. This is because the immediate consequences of not paying these things are much more serious.

But they say it's still important to speak to your card provider and explain your situation to stop it from getting worse.

Food banks can provide parcels to people in need Credit: PA
  • Food banks

Food banks provide food parcels to people in need, and are often run by community groups or churches.

The charity Shelter Cymru says if you live in a rural area and cannot afford to travel to collect your box, some food banks also offer a free delivery service.

The Trussell Trust can advise on where your nearest food bank is.

You need a voucher to use a food bank, which can be obtained from Citizens Advice, job centres, GP surgeries, health visitors and social workers.

  • Short-term benefit advance

Shelter Cymru says if you have claimed benefits and are waiting for your first payment, you may be able to ask for an advance payment.

You can ask for this if there is a delay in processing your benefit claim which isn’t your fault, or you are waiting for an increase in payments due to a change in circumstances.

You usually have to repay the benefit advance within three months, but in some circumstances you have up to six months to pay back the money.

The Discretionary Assistance Fund provides urgent grants to people in Wales as a last resort Credit: PA
  • Hardship payments

If your benefits have stopped because of a sanction, you might be able to apply for hardship payments. You will need to prove that you or your partner will have problems paying for essential living costs in order to get one.

If you’re homeless, pregnant, a single parent or vulnerable, you should be able to get a hardship payment straightaway.

  • Discretionary Assistance Fund

You may be able to get help from the Discretionary Assistance Fund, which provides urgent grants to people in Wales as a last resort.

The DAF can offer people money for certain electrical white goods, such as fridges and cookers, in addition to household items such as beds, bedding, curtains and kitchen items.

  • Credit unions

Rather than getting a bank overdraft or spending on a credit card, credit unions can be a more affordable option if you need to borrow money for a short period of time.

Credit unions won’t let you borrow more than they think you can repay and the interest rates are kept low.

Shelter Cymru warns bank overdrafts and credit cards can be an expensive ways to borrow money, especially if you don’t repay them in time.

  • Don't be afraid to seek help

Shelter Cymru urges anyone who finds themselves struggling to make ends meet not to be afraid to ask for help - and details a range of ways support can be accessed on its website.

Citizens Advice also offers a range of advice to anyone who finds themselves struggling financially. You can visit them inyour nearest Citizens Advice centre or speak to them over the telephone or online.

The Money Advice Service also offers free financial advice to anyone who finds themselves struggling either in person, over the phone or online.