The number of people experiencing problems with debt arrears on everyday household bills has risen alarmingly.
Data released for the first time by Citizens Advice show £19 billion owing to essential service providers and a big increase in problems involving debt collection practice.
Until now policymakers may not have known the true scale of this debt.
Hidden Bills the CA report, distinguishes essential service payments – council tax, rent, utility bills – from consumer debt in the form of credit card or loan repayment.
In 2011-12, 38% of debt problems our advisers helped with were caused by consumer payments, 30% by household bills. By 2016-17, the picture had reversed. 24% came from consumer debt, 46% from household bills.
This is worrying because household bill debts are much more likely to be faced by vulnerable people; and collection practices for these bills are generally more severe.
Citizens Advice is calling on government to tackle the problems which are caused in part by poor information. Ministers must ensure household debt is properly measured so that policy can reflect the true situation. They should also introduce independent regulation to deal with ‘rogue bailiffs’.