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People in debt are more lonely now than during the lockdown, charity warns

09 May 2022

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PEOPLE in debt are suffering rising levels of loneliness and isolation as the cost-of-living squeeze hits, Christians Against Poverty (CAP) has warned.

The charity surveyed 750 of its clients for its latest study, published on Monday to coincide with the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. It found that clients who were struggling with debt were often too worried to answer the door, leave the house, or answer the phone. Statistics show that the numbers of people reporting loneliness or isolation had increased among those in debt since the end of lockdown.

Before coming to CAP for debt advice and support, 60 per cent of respondents said that they felt lonely — an increase from 51 per cent of clients 18 months ago, when Covid restrictions were at their height.

About 40 per cent of respondents said that they had not had a meaningful conversation in the past week: up from 31 per cent 18 months ago; and two thirds said that they had no one to turn to when they had a problem, a six-per-cent increase.

Sixty-eight per cent said that they had been scared to answer the phone, and 55 per cent were too frightened to answer a knock at the door.

One client, Jonathan, fell into debt after a family bereavement. “It was a very lonely and frustrating time,” he said. “Even though I knew in my head that lots of people must struggle with debt, I felt like I was the only one — until I started engaging with CAP, and saw that wasn’t the case. It definitely gave me hope that there was light at the end of the tunnel.”

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has reported that more than half of people in debt are struggling with mental health.

CAP’s helpline has experienced a significant rise in demand this year: there has been a 36-per-cent increase in calls in the three months from January to March, the charity said, compared with 2021.

The director of external affairs at CAP, Gareth McNab, said: “For many of us, the easing of lockdown restrictions meant a thankful end to isolation; but for thousands of low-income families struggling in debt and poverty, the isolation and loneliness they feel is actually getting worse due to the cost-of-living crisis and mounting debts.

“Right now, we know many people are feeling isolated, scared, and forgotten as they struggle alone with their debts, not aware of the free help available. Alongside CAP’s free debt help, we also offer emotional support, and life-skills courses to help people who feel isolated to connect with others and reduce loneliness.

“Living with the kind of constant anxiety that debt creates often leads to feelings of isolation and loneliness.”

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Bringing Down the Mighty: Church, Theology and Structural Injustice
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