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11 December, 2020 Open access

More than seven million people estimated to have fallen behind with essential bills during coronavirus pandemic

Citizens Advice calls for targeted help for people who’ve built up debts during the pandemic, focusing on helping clear council tax and rent arrears

More than seven million people are estimated to have fallen behind with essential bills during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to research carried out by Citizens Advice.

The findings are drawn from a survey of more than 6,000 adults in November 2020, where 14 per cent (804) of respondents reported that they were behind on essential household bills or rent. Citizens Advice says this is equivalent to around 7.3 million individuals out of a total adult population of around 53 million.

Other key findings from the survey, and Citizens Advice's own research on debt during the COVID-19 crisis, include that -

Citizens Advice also highlights that its research reveals that almost two-thirds of the UK population (62 per cent) believe that those who’ve fallen into debt because of coronavirus and lockdown restrictions should get help from the government to pay it back. 

As a result of its findings, Citizens Advice calls for action to help those in most financial difficulty as a result of the pandemic through -

‘… targeted help for people who’ve built up debts because of a pandemic no-one could have planned for. The government should focus on council tax and rent arrears where the consequences for non-payment are most severe and the levels of debts are greatest. For rent arrears, the government should consider a system of grants and government-backed loans - comparable to schemes in Scotland and Wales - to help people pay back their rent arrears sustainably and stay in their homes.’

For more information, see Citizens Advice - One in seven fall behind on essential household bills.