Social Justice

21 million Brits are struggling to pay bills: 'People will go cold, hungry and lose their homes'

People are increasingly turning to borrowing to pay their bills as the cost of living crisis continues to impact households

cost of living crisis

Many people across the country are struggling as the cost of living crisis continues to hit households. Image: Unsplash

One in eight people have borrowed money to survive in the last 12 months as the cost of living crisis has battered the UK, new research has revealed. That equates to six million people.

Debt charity StepChange has revealed the scale of the cost of living crisis’ impact, after carrying out polling with YouGov.

Around 21 million people are struggling to keep up with bills and credit commitments – that’s two in five.

A quarter of people have rationed heating, electricity and water to meet credit repayments in the last 12 months.

Vikki Brownridge, chief executive at StepChange, said: “In an election year, tackling such widespread problem debt and improving households’ financial security should be at the top of the agenda for current and potential new governments.

“We’re fast approaching a point where all measures brought in to support people with the cost of living crisis are due to end, yet as this research shows, managing the cost of essentials has become more difficult for people in recent months.”

People were also asked how they would cope if they were faced with an unexpected £1,000 bill. One in eight people said they would not be able to cover it without turning to borrowing.



Over the course of the cost of living crisis, energy bills have remained a major concern for households and energy debt has now reached a record £2.9bn, according to estimates from Ofgem.

StepChange fears that this will be a continuing trend. Energy bills are expected to fall in April, but they remain significantly higher than last year.

Brownridge said: “We were disappointed the government has not taken forward the introduction of a social tariff in energy as we continue to see first-hand the pressure that high energy bills have put on our clients over the past two years. To give low-income households a chance of building up any financial resilience this year, we’d like to see energy debt written off for those who cannot afford to pay.”

StepChange has echoed the alarm raised by other charities and local authorities about the household support fund ending in March. It has been a lifeline to families and individuals through the cost of living crisis.

As The Big Issue has previously reported, an end to the fund could mean “crisis support will disappear altogether in many areas” and “more people will go hungry, cold and lose their homes”.

Brownridge added: “Extending the household support fund, the localised pot aimed to help households facing financial hardship, would also be a crucial step to arrest the alarming slide in many households’ ability to cope with financial setbacks.”

StepChange Debt Charity is the UK’s largest debt advice charity, helping hundreds of thousands of people a year. Find out more, including how to get help, here.

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Amy's Place: How a 'beautiful' housing project giving hope became Amy Winehouse's real legacy
Housing

Amy's Place: How a 'beautiful' housing project giving hope became Amy Winehouse's real legacy

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
Cost of living crisis

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

My cousin was killed in front of his six-year-old son. I need to get my family out of Gaza
Gaza/ Ahmed
Israel-Gaza war

My cousin was killed in front of his six-year-old son. I need to get my family out of Gaza

My family faced hell on earth in Gaza. Leaving was their only option for survival
gaza/ roba
Israel-Gaza war

My family faced hell on earth in Gaza. Leaving was their only option for survival

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know