MORE than one in ten people in debt do not have a bed to sleep in at night, and others have to rent a bed by the week because they can’t afford to buy their own, a report published by the charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) suggests.
New survey data from 1200 of CAP’s new clients in the UK also found that one in three of those who came to them for help could not afford a washing machine, and a quarter could not buy a television.
The average annual income of those who came to the charity last year was £14,693, nearly £12,000 less than the average UK income. Owing to rising inflation and benefits cuts, the average income of clients had gone down over the year.
CAP’s Client Report, which was published earlier this month, says: “At just £1224 a month, clients face a relentless financial tightrope, which for many renders it near impossible to balance debt repayments and living costs, let alone build a savings buffer. Overall 89 per cent of CAP clients had income below the national average and 63 per cent were living below the poverty line.”
Renting beds is becoming increasingly common in “austerity Britain”, it says. A single bed and single mattress can be rented for £6 a week, which over a three-year rental period would amount to £754 — enough to buy six beds and mattresses.
The chief executive of CAP, Matt Barlow, said: “The nature of personal debt and poverty has changed enormously over the last decade. Firstly, we’ve seen that priority debts like rent and utilities bills have tripled in size. The amount of secondary debt, like credit cards and payday loans, is decreasing because taking out credit is harder than it has been — and that’s a good thing.
“Secondly, when we talk about destitution, we used to be talking about people on the streets. Now we’re talking about the tragedy of families being re-homed into empty properties, or struggling to wash their clothes because their gas and electric has run out. It’s people like Mike, who we talked to last week, who was eating Weetabix for dinner because that’s all he could afford.”
Another client was forced to move with his children into an empty house, after bereavement and a relationship-breakdown caused debt. He describes how his daughter slept on a bin bag with a coat for a blanket for three months, before he turned to CAP for help.
CAP was opened 21 years ago and now has 600 centres across the UK, in partnership with 500 churches, but more churches are needed.
The charity wants to open 1000 centres by 2021. Mr Barlow said: “The need is great, and CAP is very keen to hear from churches interested in helping the poorest in their area. We want to resource the Church with training in these services, but also with funding training, with PR support, and evangelism. We need clergy to know that we’re open to that conversation — the main thing is that they want to help.”