POVERTY is destroying lives in Britain during the Covid-19 pandemic, a report by the national debt-counselling charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) says.
The charity’s latest annual survey, Our Story, released on Thursday, says that people feel suicidal, hungry, and trapped. It found that more than one quarter (28 per cent) of respondents had considered or attempted suicide before seeking debt advice; more than one third (37 per cent) had missed meals because they could not afford to eat; and more than half (58 per cent) felt trapped in poverty, with no one to turn to for help.
The two main reasons for getting into debt were low income (20 per cent) and mental-health problems (18 per cent). Average peak household debt in 2020 was £17,917.
The average CAP client household income after housing costs was just £12,845, compared with the national average of £24,900.
The survey found that young people were the least likely to seek help from the charity, although they were among the hardest-hit during the pandemic. Only eight per cent of CAP clients were aged between 18 and 25.
The report draws on data for the 1552 households who used its services for the first time in 2020. Data has also been gathered from 897 respondents to the charity’s annual debt help client survey conducted online and by post in October and November 2020.
Last year, CAP helped more than 16,000 people. Among them was Paula Goddard, from Colchester, Essex. She said: “My husband and I worked for the same company, and we were both made redundant. After the redundancy, the debts started building: rent arrears, council-tax arrears, doorstep loans, catalogue loans. We were missing meals four or five nights a week, so that the kids could have dinner. I didn’t want to go out. I couldn’t speak to anyone on the phone. It was a horrendous time.”
The charity works through more than 580 churches, and runs more than 280 debt centres. It has also organised more than 800 budgeting courses to help people to stay out of debt.
The chief executive, Paula Stringer, said: “Our latest report gives just a glimpse of how much the Covid-19 pandemic has affected people’s lives. I believe there are millions more families in debt across the UK still suffering in silence.
“Despite all the challenges of the last year, we want everyone to know there is hope. There are charities out there who can offer free, expert help out of debt. Getting debt help can quickly relieve the pressure, ease the strain on people’s mental health, and help them get their lives back on track.”