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Carrier bags full of demands - Christians Against Poverty report shows reality of life for people using credit to pay bills

by Donna Birrell

Single parents, people with disabilities and those facing terminal illness are among groups at most risk of needing to use credit to cover essential costs to stay alive this winter. That's according to a new report by Christians Against Poverty.

It says 60 percent of its clients with a terminal illness and 44 percent of those with a physical disability have been forced to use credit as a financial support lifeline. 

CAP's report highlights the need for further financial lifelines to be provided to vulnerable people facing a desperate winter, so they don't have to rely on credit to survive. 

42 percent of CAP's single parent clients and 47 percent of those who've experienced abuse have had to turn to credit in a crisis, often pushed into borrowing due to unexpected household bills, repairs or the loss of a job or relationship.

'David' told Premier that he turned to Christians Against Poverty after getting into financial difficulty through taking out more and more credit to live on: "Spiralling out of control is not the phrase I'd use, I'd say it's an avalanche. You can hold it at bay for a little while. Then you get the letter saying that the payments have gone up, there is some issue.

"So the easy option is to get something else to make that because it's only going to be for this month, it's only this month and then you can get that out of the way.

"But you end up using this secondary source to live on that month. But then something else happens, your car breaks down, there's something else that needs to be done, so you can't make the payments on the second one.

"So you then have to look somewhere else and each time you look, you are forced more and more into higher interest. Before you know where you are, you are getting literally carrier bags full of letters through the door, you cannot answer your telephone because you just know it's going to be somebody shouting at you. 

"Fortunately I never went into loan sharks, but I could really understand where some people would think that is their only option."

'David' turned to CAP because of his personal faith and he said it was a relief not to be judged. They worked through a budgeting plan and 'David' expects to be debt free in 11 month's time: "I have a future now and I'm looking forward to living again and not just existing."

A total of 88 percent of CAP's clients had turned to credit because of a financial or personal crisis and it's calling for further financial lifelines for the vulnerable this winter.

Polling commissioned by CAP from YouGov has revealed that almost 1 in 5 (19 percent) of adults in the UK, amounting to 10 million people, are struggling to keep up financially with rising costs. 

Households across all income levels have been using their savings where they have any, but those on low incomes are particularly at risk.

A quarter (25 percent) of those earning less than £15,000 a year have fallen behind on their household bills. Many of these struggle to access traditional low cost borrowing options, pushing them towards 'buy now pay later' deals, as well as making them much more likely to have to borrow from friends and family.

CAP's director of external affairs, Gareth McNab, said: "People are facing a perfect storm of financial pressures, which has been increasingly driving those on the lowest incomes to seek credit wherever they can, just to pay for essentials. 

"CAP's Lifelines to Safety report reveals the desperate struggle many households on a low income currently face and the lack of financial lifelines they have available to avoid falling into serious problem debt and to help them survive this winter.

"It highlights the difficulties that are leaving people with little choice but to turn to credit as a lifeline to pay for essentials, such as food, energy and household bills.

"Our concern is that there will be an increase in the number of people in vulnerable circumstances with no option but to use inappropriate, insecure or high cost credit. In a just and compassionate society, no one should have to rely on credit of any kind to meet their basic needs.

"This is why we are calling on the government to prioritise putting in place adequate safeguards against families having to use risky credit options as their only lifeline against facing destitution this winter."


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