Cost of living impact
- Low pay and rising costs resulting in high debt — Our latest report shows the average peak debt for a CAP client is £17,306 whereas their average income is £13,404 (after housing costs), a £3,902 difference. This is making it incredibly difficult for people to break free from debt without free debt help.
- Serious debts to cover the basics are increasing — There has also been a rise in priority debt, with the average amount among new clients rising to £6,698, that’s increased by 14% in just 12 months, from £5,852. Priority debts are mostly basic living costs like rent, utility, council tax, etc. and can lead to more serious consequences — such as court fines, eviction or even prison in some cases — if they aren’t dealt with. This highlights an increase in people getting into debt to cover their basic needs.
- The more costs increase, the more people have to give up — Since last year’s CAP client report, there’s been a 27% rise in clients sacrificing meals, 22% rise in those going without heating which is seriously concerning as energy prices are expected to go up again this Winter and a 48% increase in those unable to afford basic toiletries.
- Rise in demand for debt help — CAP has seen a rise of over 40% in calls to their UK helpline in the first five months of 2022, compared to last year, which shows a big increase in people needing free debt help as costs continue to rise.
Mental health impact
- Huge increase in depression for those in debt — Clients stating they experienced depression went up 71%, compared to the previous year
- Even bigger increase in anxiety — Clients stating they experienced anxiety and panic attacks rose by 80%
- All resulting in more people wanting to take their own lives — Before seeking free debt help, 36% of CAP clients attempted or considered suicide as a way out from their debt. That’s a 29% increase on the previous year (previously 28%)
Serious illness leaving him unable to work led to debt for CAP client, Syd. That then took him to the edge of suicide, “I had a brain tumour which was removed and I now suffer with terminal Crohn’s disease. I also lost my mother during that time as well.
“From being a paid semi-professional sporting star where I had everything under control, I went to struggling to pick up a tin of beans or the kettle.
“I was suffering badly from depression. Previously I had always worked very hard but due to circumstances beyond anybody’s control I got to a state where I was on suicide watch.’
Syd describes how he feels since getting free debt help from CAP which partners with his local church, “It’s made such a difference. If I had carried on as before, I probably wouldn’t be here now. I couldn’t see a way out. These people will not judge you, they’re just there to help you.”
The reality of being in poverty during the cost of living crisis
Gareth McNab, CAP Director of External Affairs, says, “The reality for families on the lowest incomes is many of them just don’t have enough money coming in to be able to run their homes, buy the essentials, and feed themselves and their children.
“At Christians Against Poverty, through our free services, we can help people get out of debt, provide them with practical and emotional support, and offer budgeting courses. That often leads to people becoming debt free and gives them hope for the future.
“We encourage anyone struggling to seek free debt help because we know that with incomes so low, and rapidly rising costs, a lot of families are finding it impossible to stay out of debt and it looks like things are set to get even more difficult this Winter.
“It’s incredibly sad but not surprising that this is leading to more people feeling anxious, depressed and suicidal.”
Gareth continued, “The Chancellor’s recent announcement of support, meaning the most vulnerable and low income families will receive £1200, was significant, direct and targeted and this report shows just how desperately it was needed. However, we are working with people who have been struggling for months and have already found themselves with much higher costs and in much higher debt than the support being offered.
“It’s vital that the UK Government come up with a longer term solution, address the inadequacies of the social security system, and ensure everyone has a liveable income.
“Many people still face destitution in the months ahead, prices are still rising rapidly and sadly this crisis is far from over.”