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Household debt is now higher than it was in the 2008 financial crisis

The TUC warns that the average household owes £15,385 as unsecured debt hits 'crisis level'

Household debt

UK families face ‘crisis level’ household debt heading into 2019 with money owed even topping levels seen in the 2008 financial crisis.

The average UK household owes £15,385 in unsecured debt, including credit card bills, bank loans and high-cost lending, with many Brits now worse off than they were at the peak of the 2008 recession, according to a new report by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

The investigation found that £428 billion is owed across the country, an unprecedented leap from the previous high of £286bn prior to the economic downturn a decade ago.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “Household debt is at crisis level. Years of austerity and wage stagnation has pushed millions of families deep into the red.

“The government is skating on thin ice by relying on household debt to drive growth. A strong economy needs people spending wages, not credit cards and loans.”

According to the TUC, this debt now accounts for 30.4 per cent of the average UK household’s income: a sobering increase that they put down to governmental prioritisation of tax cuts over public sector pay, low UK investment and failure to increase minimum wage.

In their report today, the TUC seemed adamant that “our economy is not working for workers” as they made a series of demands to balance the scales.

Amongst their recommendations, the union asked that minimum wage be raised from £7.83 to £10, that the UK increase its public investment to 21.5 per cent, in line with the OECD average and that trade unions be given freedom to enter all workplaces and organise collective wage bargaining.

These recommendations are bolstered by figures collated from personal loans, bank overdrafts and credit card debts as well as student loans, but debt charity StepChange says there’s more to the country’s debt problem and called for the measures like the “breathing space” scheme to tackle the issue. The “breathing space”  scheme gives those in debt respite from being chased by debt collectors while they work with support services on repayment plans.

Household debt is at crisis level. Years of austerity and wage stagnation has pushed millions of families deep into the red

Richard Lane, director of external affairs at StepChange said: “In just the first six months of 2018, the typical new client who contacted us had £13,382 of unsecured borrowing outstanding.

“However, problem debt is not confined to consumer credit – we now frequently see clients unable to meet basic costs such as council tax and utilities bills.

“It’s vital that new measures, such as the debt “breathing space” scheme currently being developed, reflect these types of debt, as well as consumer lending.”

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