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UK News

A call for Christians to show compassion as study shows 6 million Brits are behind on bills due to Covid-19

by Tola Mbakwe

An organisation that works to equip Christians to act and pray on issues of injustice has urged the Church to not ignore the impacts of the recession. 

A new study has found six million people across the UK have fallen behind on household bills due to coronavirus.

Research from Citizens Advice shows that one in nine people in the UK are behind on bills, with around a fifth of these individuals having to go without essentials including food.

The study finds that carers, those who were shielding during the pandemic and key workers are twice as likely to have fallen behind on bill payments due to coronavirus, while black people, those aged between 18 and 34 and disabled people are also at least twice as likely to be in arrears.

Paul Morrison, policy advisor for the Joint Public Issues Team told Premier Christian News the research is more proof that the pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on the vulnerable. 

"One of the things that most concerns us is that the data is telling us that people who had high incomes before lockdown and people who had savings before lockdown, they were much less likely to lose their job. And actually, Bank of England data tells us that savings are going up. And for those families, they're even paying down their debts," he said. 

"But people who were at had the lowest levels of income and didn't have savings, they were more likely to lose their job, which meant that they had to take on debt just to make ends meet. Covid has hit families really unequally, and those who have the least at the beginnings are the ones who were most likely to have lost money during the process."

The study also found that one in five people who are behind on bills have had to sell possessions to cope and warns that people who sought help with debt since March this year will need, on average, two and a half years to pay back their current priority debts. 

Morrison told Premier the ban on evictions coming to an end on 23rd August is another major concern. 

"We know that at least 230,000 people have got behind on the rent during COVID. If evictions start proceeding, we could see real problems with some of the poorest and most vulnerable families in our country," he said. 

Citizens Advice has called on the Government to give financial support to those in debt in the form of a one-off or time-limited financial support for arrears built up because of coronavirus, with the cost of relief shared fairly between Government, creditors and individuals.

Morrison believes families struggling should be helped with debt restructuring and for the ban on evictions to continue as a short term solution. 

He added that Christians should be approaching this issue with compassion. 

"When sometimes people come for help, or sometimes people we know are going through these hard times… listen and provide compassion," he said. 

"If you've ever been alongside someone who's going through this process, you know how much it rips at them, you know how much it destroys their sense of self-worth. Just being there and saying that 'you're loved by God and you're loved by us and at the other end of this, you still will be' is vitally important."

He also said the Church can respond people by helping them access support through charities and the government. 

"We also have to say it's just not fair. The unequal effects of COVID are hitting the poorest families and so that requires a response from government," Morrison added. 

"That requires a sort of response from the level of policy to say, actually, throwing these people out onto the streets is not the right response. Putting people through debt relief orders and all those other really unpleasant processes is not doing anyone good and it's not just, so how can we work out a better way so that these debts can be removed from families."

Listen to Premier's full interview with Paul Morrison here: 

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