Millions of UK households are missing payments on their mortgage, utility bills and credit cards as the cost of living squeeze continues.
A survey for consumer group Which? in March showed that an estimated 2.5 million households (8.8%) missed or defaulted on a payment in March, up from 8.2% and 8.1% in January and February respectively.
Which? said six in 10 (60%) households surveyed in March had reported making at least one adjustment to cover their essential spending, such as utility bills, housing costs, groceries, school supplies and medicines in the previous month.
Adjustments included cutting back on essentials, dipping into savings, selling possessions or borrowing. This is consistent with the level seen for the past few months, Which? said.
A 51-year-old man from the south-east of England told Which?’s survey: “It is a struggle to pay bills and afford food. There is no money for anything but the essentials and sometimes not even enough for those. This is making me miserable all the time and making my mental health even worse.”
A 40-year-old woman from Scotland said: “I am anxious about the future and struggling to pay upcoming bills.”
A 73-year-old woman from Northern Ireland said she was “finding it difficult to heat the home, buy food and pay bills”.
A 49-year-old man from the south-west of England said: “I’m finding that I am spending more than I have incoming. I’ve had to put some bills on hold and have had to cut my spending on groceries. I’m also borrowing from family from time-to-time.”
The research was released ahead of hikes to some household bills, including those for broadband and mobile phones, water and council tax.
Which? wants government and businesses providing essentials to ensure that they help people as much as possible during the cost of living crisis.
Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “Our research suggests millions of households are struggling to get their finances on track amid huge pressure on the cost of living.
“This should set off alarm bells, particularly as painful increases to many essential bills are due to take effect in a matter of days.
“Our findings underline the need for the government and companies in essential sectors — such as supermarkets, energy and telecoms providers — to do everything in their power to support consumers, particularly those struggling financially, through this incredibly difficult time.”