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21 August, 2020 Open access

Six million people have fallen behind on bills because of coronavirus, with carers, shielders and key workers hardest hit

Citizens Advice calls for urgent financial support to free people from long-term debt and strengthen the economic recovery

Six million people have fallen behind on bills because of coronavirus, with carers, shielders and key workers hardest hit, according to research carried out by Citizens Advice.

The findings are drawn from a survey of more than 6,000 people in June and July 2020, which found that one in nine respondents, the equivalent of six million people across the UK, have reported falling behind on household bills because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Other key findings from the survey include that -

Warning that people who have sought help with debt since March this year will need on average two and half years to clear their priority debts, Citizens Advice fears a ‘lasting legacy’ of coronavirus debt - harmful to the people affected, landlords, councils and the country's economic recovery.

As a result, Citizens Advice calls for a one-off or time-limited financial support package that is tailored to each sector, using methods including grants, payment matching, or government-backed loans to cover arrears built up because of coronavirus, with the cost of relief shared between the government, creditors, and individuals.

Commenting on the research findings, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Gillian Guy said today -

‘As the government takes steps to try to kickstart the economy, it must not forget the millions who’ve fallen into debt because of a crisis no-one could have foreseen.

Protections put in place by the government, businesses and regulators have staved off the worst consequences of lockdown debt - so far. But with these measures beginning to end, millions will now face the repercussions.

It is not right that people who’ve followed government guidance by shielding, stayed at home to care for others, been forced to work less, or lost their jobs altogether should be the ones left facing a financial black hole.

Government and businesses must help them now. Financial support for those who’ve fallen into debt must be prioritised to free them from the damaging consequences of long-term debt, and help strengthen the economic recovery.’

For more information, see Six million fall behind on bills because of coronavirus, with carers, shielders and key workers hardest hit from citizensadvice.org.uk