Warning over household debt

Citizen's Advice Mid Lincolnshire chief executive Stuart Hellon
Citizen's Advice Mid Lincolnshire chief executive Stuart Hellon

More people are now seeking help for essential household bills than consumer credit debts, according to Citizens Advice Mid Lincolnshire.

The charity is reporting a shift in the type of debt problems it helps people with.

Latest figures show more people are seeking support with rent, council tax, fuel and water debts while consumer credit problems – such as personal loans and credit card bills – are in decline.

The number of household debt problems helped with by staff and volunteers in the Citizens Advice offices in Sleaford and Boston has increased to 2,484, from 1,742 household debt issues in 2014-15.

Citizens Advice Mid Lincolnshire says by not prioritising household bills, people areplacing themselves at greater risk of eviction, visits from bailiffs, being cut off from energy supplies and even prison. The priority should always be to pay off householdbills first – otherwise they risk further financial and emotional hardship.

New evidence from national Citizens Advice finds that more than a quarter of adults(28 per cent) nationally would prioritise consumer credit debts ahead of household bills and comes as latest figures show the offices in Sleaford and Boston helping more than 14,000 people in the last financial year, a 26 per cent increase on the numbers of people helped in the last financial year.

Some 31 per cent of all inquiries related to debt, with 28 per cent relating to welfare benefits. The next largest areas of inquiry were employment and housing, both at six per cent.

In the same year the charity helped local people to increase their incomes by over £2.6 million through successful benefits and grant applications and debt write-offs.

Stuart Hellon, CEO of Citizens Advice Mid Lincolnshire said: “Citizens Advice helps people with a wide range of issues, however, our main area of inquiry last year continued to be debt related. Falling behind on household bills can have serious consequences.

“From getting the power cut off to bailiffs knocking at your door, to losing your home or even prison – failing to pay household bills can put people in vulnerable situations.

“Huge numbers of people are unsure of what debts they should prioritise when they get into difficulties, so it’s important people in Boston and North Kesteven know where to go to get help with their finances. If you are struggling, Citizens Advice can help.”

l Anyone needing further advice or information should visit their local Citizens Advice office at Boston or Sleaford. See www.citizensadvice.org.uk/local/midlincolnshire for opening hours, or call 03444 111 444.