A Somerset charity has said it fears what impact the end of the coronavirus mortgage holidays and furlough scheme will have on people's finances.
Citizens Advice Sedgemoor, which covers towns including Bridgwater, Highbridge and Burnham-on-Sea, has told ITV News the Covid-19 lockdown is leading to money trouble for some people for the first time in their lives.
It has also noticed an increase in younger people coming to it for help.
The bureau is averaging around 100 clients per week, who are receiving help either online or via phone.
The main problems concern complex debt issues, Universal Credit claims and it has received a large increase in employment queries.
The charity has also seen double the amount of people aged 15-19 compared to the same period last year, but also a reduction in over 55s coming to it for help.
It fears that digital exclusion means there are potential clients who are not able to contact them for support.
I think this is affecting people from every walk of life - people who have worked all their lives, who have not come into contact with these challenges before.
Amy Jones, chief officer at Citizens Advice Sedgemoor, said: “Although the government measures are really helping people out at the moment, our concern is around once the mortgage holidays are lifted, restrictions around bailiff action and the furlough scheme, that those combined complexities are really going to challenge people.
“I think this is affecting people from every walk of life - people who have worked all their lives, who have not come into contact with these challenges before.
"I think there are people out there who are not prepared for this and we’re certainly here for them to try and support them with whatever they might need.”
To illustrate the problems that many are facing, ITV News has spoken to three people in Somerset to find out how the coronavirus lockdown has affected their finances:
Joanne French lives in Burnham-on-Sea with her husband and two daughters.
Covid-19 has hit their finances hard with both parents unable to work during most of the lockdown so far.
We went from two wages to nothing with mortgage and bills still coming out.
Despite Joanne’s husband returning to work, a new problem arose. The family was set to move home but, because their income dropped, they lost their mortgage. Having already exchanged contracts they still have to move out.
“We’re essentially homeless living with my parents - four of us. So our whole lives have just been disrupted and I just can’t see an end to it right now.
“We had to borrow money from my parents. The only savings we had we paid on solicitors fees and surveyors literally a week before lockdown, so we didn’t have those to fall back on. We had no choice but to borrow off them just to pay the bills. It was just frightening because we’ve always been sensible and secure.
“There have been some really dark days. I remember having a week where I didn’t sleep for three or four days - I camped out on the sofa at night.”
For 19 year-old Mel Hurley from Taunton, Covid-19 has been particularly tough. She lost her job shortly before lockdown and has had to claim Universal Credit.
She said she receives roughly £330 a month: "That has to go on rent, bills, food, gas, electric and at the end of the month I’m left with nothing, really, to actually get me through that last day."
Mel says despite the challenges, the experience is making her stronger:
It’s teaching me a lesson.
She said: “You do see life differently, you really do. You’re not spending your money on things that you don’t need.
"You learn from that and you see yourself later on, in 2021 when all of this is over, fingers crossed, you’ll say ‘last year I managed to save this amount of money just by not buying all this in one week. If I can do that I can do it all the time and only buy it when I need it.
“This virus is actually teaching us a lesson. I thought money ‘grew on trees’, as every young person does, but I’ve learnt the hard way by ending up with nothing.
Bradley Loveridge, from Mark on the Somerset Levels, runs a successful events business.
During lockdown I’ve lost quite a lot of money.
He said: “The events industry has completely gone. One I organise is for 30,000 people and that, this year, is being put down the drain. This year was meant to be the best year for my events.
“I have received some self-employment support but it doesn’t really cover the bills.
“I’ve got a lot of friends who are struggling emotionally and quite a few who have had businesses that have gone down.”
Citizens Advice Sedgemoor, like bureaus across the West Country, is continuing to help people online and via phone.
Amy Jones says that the main problems it is dealing with are likely to develop in the future: "I think that the key issues are going to be around housing, debt, money advice and welfare benefits and just still trying to help people navigate through those issues, help them to manage their finances and trying to protect their housing status."