Requests for support to Citizens Advice Reigate and Banstead have grown significantly since the start of the Covid lockdown. Many more people have asked for advice about universal credit, employment, housing and health issues (chart below)
Money worries are at the root of the increase.
Benefit enquiries, particularly concerning universal credit, reveal family finances as the main anxiety. In the employment category, pay and entitlements, fears of redundancy and the furlough scheme are the leading issues.
Our research reflects new national data published by the Financial Conduct Authority and Citizens Advice.
A large national survey carried out for the FCA* in September shows ’12 million people in the UK had low financial resilience, meaning they may struggle with bills or loan repayments’. This was 20% higher than in February. The authority says: ‘Due to the impact of the pandemic, many of those who have experienced changes in employment and increased stress are now likely to have low financial resilience’. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) and young people are more likely to be affected.
Meanwhile, also in September, Citizens Advice** at national level reported that 40% of people who asked for help with debts since the pandemic began had a negative budget – their household income was lower than their expenses.
To prevent a big rise in hardship in short and medium-term Citizens Advice is asking government to make the universal credit £20 a week Covid supplement permanent, to help renters pay off arrears, and give low-income families more support with energy and council tax bills.
* FCA highlights continued support for consumers struggling with payments, Financial Conduct Authority, 22/10/20
** Life on less than zero, Citizens Advice, 13/10/20