Money problems 'won't go away' when lockdown is lifted
- Credit: Archant
The true scale of Suffolk's debt problem could be realised as we come out of lockdown, it has been warned.
A growing number of people are seeking help for money issues and Chiara Saunders, chief officer at Leiston, Saxmundham & District Citizens Advice, fears that could escalate as furlough comes to an end and we head in to another tough winter.
She said they have seen a rise in requests for debt advice since Christmas, but mainly from those who were already in trouble.
"It's probably people who had debts prior to lockdown and are just now struggling to juggle them," said Mrs Saunders, adding that they are yet to see the true impact of the pandemic.
"I think a large part of that is because people are using their savings, maxing out their credit cards or getting help from family," said Mrs Saunders.
"Some people who have been furloughed have also been able to find temp work to tide themselves over."
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However, Mrs Saunders believes the worst may still be to come.
"Although we are seeing requests for advice it is still very much the tip of the iceberg," said Mrs Saunders.
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"I think going into the autumn I am quite concerned as to what we will be seeing then.
"That will be tying in with the £20 uplift in universal credit coming off. Which will effectively be a pay cut for people who will be used to it."
Mrs Saunders said she was also concerned as to what would happen next winter to those who had struggled in recent month.
"My big concern is that there has been a lot of funds around this winter to help people cope with increased utility bills," said Mrs Saunders.
"I am just worried that next Christmas, is there going to be help because I don't think the problems will be over."
Mrs Saunders said that the grants had been helpful for people and businesses locally, particularly those who would traditionally be closed in winter such as hotels.
She said, however, that the long term impact of the virus would still take time to come out.
"Just because lockdown is ending and we can see some sort of light at the end of the tunnel one mustn't think the problems are going away," said Mrs Saunders.
"A lot of debt problems can take quite a while to build up and start biting.
"One has to be careful to think we are out of the woods. We still have a tough winter ahead of us.
"I don't think we've seen the full effect yet."