Two in five people struggling with debts have no money at end of month, warns CAS
Scotland faces a ‘cliff edge’ moment as it emerges from lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic, Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has warned.
Publishing its manifesto for the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections, the charity revealed the impact COVID-19 has had on people financially.
Analysis of complex debt clients helped by the charity over the course of the pandemic reveals 2 in 5 people (44%) have no money left at the end of the month after meeting their living costs. A complex debt issue is where someone owes multiple debts.
In total, these clients owe £31 million with an average debt of £9,678.21. CAS is warning that this will only get worse for individuals and put a greater strain on public services if help isn’t made available now.
CAS said that urgent action to support people financially has to be the priority for the next Scottish Government, with steps including:
- Writing off, or helping pay off, housing and council tax debts built up during the pandemic
- Reviewing fuel poverty support schemes so they are better targeted
- Reforming legal aid
CAS praised various steps taken by policymakers during the pandemic, but warn that the biggest risk is still to come, as the country leaves lockdown and the economy adjusts.
Derek Mitchell, CAS chief executive, said: “Even before the pandemic people in Scotland faced insufficient incomes and rising living costs.
“Fast action from policy makers to support incomes during the crisis, such as the furlough scheme, payment breaks, increasing Universal Credit, boosting the Scottish Welfare Fund and Discretionary Housing Payments, and Council Tax Reduction schemes were welcome, however people across Scotland will face a cliff edge moment early in the new parliamentary term when current emergency protections end.
“The next Scottish Government will face the immediate challenge of our economy reopening as various financial support schemes expire. This is a moment of huge risk for people, many of whom will have built up new or additional debts and arrears because of the crisis, and face reduced incomes, rising bills, and unemployment.
“Our analysis suggests more than 2 in 5 people coming to us for help with multiple debts have no money left at the end of the month after meeting their living costs.
“It’s vital that the next Scottish Government addresses this threat with the urgency it requires. Failure to do so increases the chances of people across the country being swept into further destitution and poverty and will risk any wider economic recovery.”