“EPIDEMIC levels” of debt are forcing people to hide away from society, causing “acute loneliness and isolation”, the Archbishop of Canterbury says in the foreword to a new report by the charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP).
The report, Client Report: Bringing restoration to desolate home, published on Wednesday, tells the stories of those helped by the charity.
The report found that more than a third of CAP’s clients admitted to being afraid to leave their home because of their debt problems; 60 per cent said that they were afraid to answer the door; and nearly three quarters said that they were too scared to answer the phone.
A high proportion — 35 per cent — said that they had contemplated suicide as a way out of their debt, and eight per cent had already attempted to end their life at least once.
One of CAP’s clients, Colin, said: “I thought about doing away with my life; I thought about it many times. I was so depressed I didn’t want to see anybody. I was incapable of repaying the debts I had built up while I was not working; so I turned off the heating, stopped eating, and was unable to afford essential things like toiletries.”
The report found that debt rarely occurs in isolation: nearly a quarter of those helped were caring for a loved one, half lived in a household where there was a mental-health problem, and nearly a quarter of clients were struggling with bereavement.
CAP’s chief executive, Matt Barlow, said on Wednesday: “It’s important that we continue to highlight what life is like for the most destitute living in the UK, and remind all of society that it is our shared problem. Debt isn’t just a maths problem, it touches every area of life: relationships, health, housing, and children’s welfare.”
Archbishop Welby, who is patron of CAP, writes in the foreword to the report: “The scale of problem debt in our country is at epidemic levels. Jesus calls us to be hope-bringers and peace-givers.
“Where there are still lives filled with an oppressive hopelessness, where darkness has a grip, our mission is not done.”