Debt fears surge as survey reveals stark reality of cost of living crisis
- Credit: Archant
One in five of us have seen household bills soar by more than £200 during the cost of living crisis, a Journal survey has found.
The survey revealed the stark reality of how the cost of living crisis is affecting people in east Suffolk.
And charity leaders say the repercussions of the crisis will continue to be felt long into the future.
The poll received more than 200 responses from this newspaper's readers.
- Four in five people are worse off financially than a year ago
- 85pc of people have seen their monthly household bills increase by more than £50
- 40pc of people will not take a holiday this year due to the cost of living crisis
- Not including mortgages, 41pc of people are in debt
Janet John, chief executive of Citizens Advice Bureau North East Suffolk, said the situation was "absolutely dire".
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"Anything we can do, and the support from the government is just a sticking plaster," she said.
"People have worked really hard to manage just to get through the month up until the fuel price rise.
"For example, one person's monthly utility bill went from £60 to £270.
"Staying solvent at that point went out the window for a lot of people.
"The financial support available is crisis money and it's not sustainable."
She highlighted 40pc of people on Universal Credit are currently in work, and said the current crisis, just months after losing the uplift, was a "double whammy" for people.
She urged people to check whether they are entitled to a reduction in council tax to help with energy bills, or whether they are entitled to any benefits by visiting www.entitledto.co.uk.
Ms John also urged people to contact their local Citizens Advice Bureau for support, including those unable to access the internet by phoning the free phone number for Suffolk on 0800 068 31 31. The number is available Monday-Friday between 9am-5pm.
For those who need support budget planning, she recommends the MoneySavingExpert website.
She also urged anyone in debt to contact the bureau for a free, FCA regulated service to help manage the debt, as well as contacting energy and water suppliers to see what options are available if you are struggling to pay bills.
Ms John added: "There is help available but it doesn't address the long-term problems raised by the cost of living crisis.
"Hopefully we have a warm summer where people don't need their heating on, but I dread to think what will happen when the cold comes back.
"I haven't seen things as bad as this in 40 years of doing this and there is no real light at the end of the tunnel.
Our survey's figures revealed all bar one respondent had seen an increase in their total monthly household bills.
Just 15pc said they had increased by less than £50 a month, while 23pc said they had risen by £51-£100, 21pc said £101-£150, 17pc said £151-200 and 11pc said they'd seen a price hike of between £200-250.
Worse still, 13pc said their monthly bills had soared by more than £250.
Many people reported seeing an increase in the price of their food shopping (97pc), electricity (89pc), gas (73pc) and fuel bills for vehicles (89pc).
The government's National Insurance price hike, which came into effect in April, was also noticed by 43pc, while 76pc said their council tax had increased.
Just 13pc said they can cope with the price rises, with others saying they would cut down on heating (59pc), food shopping (63pc) and limit car journeys (65pc).
Others said they would go out less (61pc), or cancel subscriptions to streaming services (36pc).
The cost of living crisis has forced some respondents to get a second job (7pc), while 47pc said they had stopped buying 'micro-treats' - items such as coffees, takeaways or beauty treatments.
43pc said they had switched to a budget supermarket, while 40pc said they would not take a holiday this year.
One person said they had even rented out a spare room to help increase their income.
Tim Holder, head of public affairs at the Suffolk Community Foundation, said: "The figures from this survey really only scratch the surface of the complex ways in which the current economic climate will negatively impact people’s lives here in Suffolk.
"As the cost of living continues to rise, those already struggling will fall deeper into trouble. Even before this current crisis, more than one in ten of our local population was living in deprivation.
"Many thousands more will now also be forced to make impossible choices between feeding themselves, keeping a roof over their heads and paying their bills.
"As hardship continues there is a serious knock-on effect to people’s physical and mental health and our communities will see serious rises in social challenges like addiction and domestic abuse."
He added: "For anyone feeling financial pressure, it’s really important to seek advice and support as early as possible.
"Ultimately this means that many more people will be looking to local charities and community groups to help them.
"Significant rises in the need for support means that charities will be relying on the continued generosity of people still in a position to offer financial support and having the time to keep up the vital levels of volunteering that are absolutely essential."
If you're struggling, you can speak to your local Citizens Advice centre on 0800 0683131, if you specifically want help with debts you can reach a local debt centre on 0800 3280006.