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.

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