Citizens Advice Cymru (Wales) has reported a 19% surge in debt related problems, with each person coming to the charity having an average of 4.2 debt issues.
The leading advice charity says it helped deal with 125,000 debt related problems in 2014-15, from more than 29,700 people – an increase of 19% on the previous year.
There has been a noticeable changing trend in the nature of debt issues, the charity says. The number of people struggling with essential household bills has increased significantly.
Annual advice trends reveal that far more people are finding it difficult to pay their rent. Problems with rent arrears across both the social and private rented sectors have increased by an average of 28% in 2014/15. Issues with private sector rent have gone up by a shocking 48%. Citizens Advice Cymru warns, “this could have potentially serious consequences and may lead to people being threatened with or actually losing their home”.
And a 51% increase in Council Tax arrears means it is now the largest debt related issue seen by Citizens Advice Cymru. The charity has expressed concerns about methods used by some bailiffs collecting Council Tax arrears. A third of people coming to the charity with Council Tax issues reported problems with bailiffs when collecting debts.
The charity also highlights how welfare reform is having a devastating impact on the poor and vulnerable. More than half of those who sought help in the past year in relation to benefits and tax credits were disabled, or suffered from a debilitating long-term health condition. Welfare related issues account for 39% of all issues reported to Citizens Advice Cymru.
Fran Targett, Director Citizens Advice Cymru, said: “Although the economy is recovering we are still seeing increasing numbers of people who are struggling to maintain a decent standard of living and finding it almost impossible to cope financially year on year.
“People are telling us that they are having to cut back on food in order to pay their rent and energy bills. Many are being forced to go further into debt to live from day to day. We are also concerned that the planned increase in interest rates or a severe cold winter could push people over the edge.
“Getting into serious debt not only has a devastating impact on the health and well-being of individuals and their families, especially children, but having to deal with the consequences such as rehousing a homeless family could have a significant financial knock on effect on local services. This being at a time when local authorities are having to deal with cuts to funding”.