Poverty is destroying lives across the UK, according to the charity Christians Against Poverty.
In a new report on the impact of debt during the pandemic, the charity found over half of those asked felt trapped by poverty and that the average household debt was nearly £18,000.
The charity analysed data from more than 1,500 households, together with nearly 900 online surveys.
Gareth McNab, the charity's external affairs director, told Premier that for many people, the pandemic has exacerbated existing financial problems :
"The report summarises the changes we've seen over a five year period ending in 2020. What you see is that when it comes to debt, the nation's been in a pandemic of debt for many years before Covid. And for many, Covid has made visible what was always underlying in our society."
As part of the 'Our Story' report, the charity found that 28 per cent of those surveyed had considered or attempted suicide before seeking debt help and that 37 per cent had sacrificed meals because they couldn't afford to eat:
"Often, that's parents or care-givers going without food so that they can feed their children. And those factors combined to leave the overall feeling of being really trapped in the grip of poverty and problem debt. And that's going to lead to loneliness, isolation, feeling like you are a failure, feeling like you need help but don't know where to turn. It's why the kind of debt help that we give is so critically important."
The report found that young people were the least likely to seek help for debt, despite them being hit hard during the pandemic. Only eight per cent of the charity's clients were aged between 18 and 25. Gareth McNab says the journey from getting into difficulty and then seeking help is long and complex:
"The average client takes between 18 and 36 months between first experiencing difficulty and getting help from us. I think economically, the impacts of Covid on individuals and households will be felt financially for a long, long time."
Mr McNab is urging anyone worried about debt to contact the charity as soon as possible :
"Please don't wait, please don't delay. There's plenty of room to help you - there are debt advisors ready and waiting and people who really, really care."