There is no time to lose to prevent the situations of people who cannot absorb surging living costs from drastically worsening over the coming months, a charity has warned.
StepChange Debt Charity said the surging cost of living is among the most common reasons that people with financial struggles are giving for their debts.
As annual inflation hit 9% in April, accelerating from 7% in March, StepChange said inflation is increasingly a driver of debt for people seeking help with financial problems.
Among StepChange clients, the cost of living is the third most commonly cited reason for their debt.
Wider survey data commissioned from YouGov by the charity in March found 24% of people were worried about inflation and felt they were likely to go into debt as a result but would be able to cope, while 11% felt they were likely to incur debt that they would not be able to repay.
StepChange director of external affairs Richard Lane said: “We need to see targeted support specifically aimed at those households whose budgets don’t have the bandwidth to absorb higher costs – such as people on low incomes and relying on social security for some or all of their income, and those with vulnerabilities that mean they have specific needs and cannot cut their spending in areas such as energy or food.
“These groups are already over-represented among those experiencing problem debt, and there is no time to lose if their financial situation is to be prevented from worsening drastically over the coming months.”
StepChange is urging anyone worried about the rising cost of living to look for the support available, including a hub on its website.
Michael Clarke, head of information programmes at Turn2us, said: “The reality is, this increase is going to plunge thousands more people into financial insecurity and those on the lowest incomes will be unable to afford the basics needed to live.
“Intervention is urgently needed to catch people before they fall into crisis in the months to come because our social security system should be able to provide the protection to weather this storm.”
Macmillan Cancer Support recently said it had seen a high level of demand for its financial need support services in recent months, with calls to its support line about energy jumping after the latest energy price cap increase came into effect.
Jane Tully, director of external affairs and partnerships at the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline and Business Debtline, said: “Today’s inflation figures should raise the alarm on the urgent need for support for households struggling to cope with rising prices.
“At National Debtline and Business Debtline we are already hearing from people whose incomes are unable to cover essential costs. Unless further action is taken, our fear is that more people will be left with impossible choices trying to meet basic needs…
“If you are worried about your finances, you should seek free, independent debt advice from a service like National Debtline.”
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