Debt can be devastating - but you don't have to struggle alone
- Credit: Joe Giddens/ PA Wire
Coronavirus has wreaked havoc on our finances – with ill health and job losses leading to mounting debt over lockdown.
Households struggling on lower incomes have run down savings and seen debt increase with more money being borrowed and credit cards swiped.
The Office for National Statistics found that by July 2020, 13.3 per cent of people said they had to borrow money since the pandemic began four months earlier.
Since then, we have had two more national lockdowns and thousands of people left out of work.
In some cases savings have been made – with less being spent on shopping and commuting costs.
But the bigger picture is one that has led to a significant impact on mental health and families struggling to get by.
Citizens Advice Rural Cambs (CARC) has been working tirelessly over the past 12 months to give advice to residents across Cambridgeshire.
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Last year alone, their financial skills team saved clients more than £45,000 by finding better deals, maximising incomes, reducing expenditure and grant awards.
Susan Annan, debt team manager, spoke to The Hunts Post about some of the ways in which they’ve helped.
“People are in debt differently to normal,” she explained.
“We have people in touch with us who have never been in debt before or had money worries.
“When we first went into lockdown there was still creditors chasing and possession orders; but more money was about as people were furloughed and could not spend in the same way.
“Then, as restrictions began to ease, we had lots of people coming to us with concerns over bailiffs and people phoning up worried about what they could do.
“The debt collectors don’t go away.”
Susan said that many people who have got in touch with CARC are in debt due to a job loss or death in the family – something that the pandemic has tragically seen a rise in.
She continued: “Full time wages have been considerably reduced and we’ve offered a lot of income and benefits advice.
“Debt does not happen overnight, but people will try and struggle on for several months or years and then it's not great.
“There is usually something that has happened such as a job loss, illness or death in the family. It’s not just people who are overspending.
“Having to deal with money worries everyday can be very traumatic for many of our clients.
“Debt can have a devastating effect.”
The debt advice team have supported clients in adapting to the impacts of monthly budgeting and gaining a better understanding of how to make the most of their money.
“When people are in the thick of it they don’t look at the actual income,” Susan said.
“It may be that you could save so much money by switching your electricity or broadband provider by using a comparison site.
“Sometimes people just need to take a step back. Pay the priority debts – you need to pay your mortgage before other bills.
“Being in debt may be strange for a certain generation of people – but we all have hiccups and no one should feel ashamed.”
The main message from CARC is if you are struggling – then get give them a call.
The debt team are still available via the contact centre and are there to help.
Debt management plans can be put in place and people with serious mental health problems can get certain debts written off.
In some circumstances the team can help with food vouchers or even with items of furniture.
“People can feel so alone yet when they get the help they need they feel so much better,” Susan added.
“My debt team are exceptional and very caring individuals who will understand.
“We are still here and we are still open to help, so please get in touch if you need to. Don’t struggle alone.”
Call the CARC contact centre on 0808 278 7807 from 9.30am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday or for more information visit https://www.citizensadviceruralcambs.org.uk/advice/debt-advice/