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Depression, anxiety and panic attacks: charity highlights the impacts of debt

·3-min read

A debt charity says it has been seeing more clients suffering with issues such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks.

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) also said there has been a rise in clients sacrificing meals or going without heating, as well as an increase in people unable to afford basic toiletries.

The charity said it has seen an increase of over 40% in calls to its UK helpline in the first five months of 2022, compared with last year.

Its report said: “Without a doubt, money affects mental health, and mental health affects income.”

The charity also found there is a gap of nearly £4,000 between its average client’s debt when it is at its height and the average annual income they have available – making it very difficult to break free from debt without getting free help.

There are also signs of people getting into bigger arrears on debts to cover their basic needs, which could lead to serious consequences such as fines or evictions if they are not dealt with, the charity warned.

The average peak debt for a CAP client is £17,306, while their average income is £13,404 after housing costs – a £3,902 difference.

The average amount owed in terms of priority debts has also increased to £6,698, from £5,852.

Priority debts often cover basic living costs such as rent and council tax.

They can lead to more serious consequences, such as court fines, eviction or even prison in some cases if they are not dealt with, CAP said.

The report also highlighted the impact of debts on family relationships.

Two-thirds (67%) of CAP clients said their children were affected by their debt crisis in some way.

Nearly half (48%) said it had affected their children’s emotional wellbeing or mental health, 13% said it affected their performance at school and 6% said it affected their physical health.

CAP client Syd said that after getting free debt help: “It’s made such a difference. If I had carried on as before, I probably wouldn’t be here now. I couldn’t see a way out. These people will not judge you, they’re just there to help you.”

Gareth McNab, CAP director of external affairs, said: “The reality for families on the lowest incomes is many of them just don’t have enough money coming in to be able to run their homes, buy the essentials, and feed themselves and their children.”

He added: “We encourage anyone struggling to seek free debt help because we know that with incomes so low, and rapidly rising costs, a lot of families are finding it impossible to stay out of debt and it looks like things are set to get even more difficult this winter.”

The UK Government recently announced a package of both widespread and targeted cost-of-living support measures.

People will start to see cost-of-living payments hit their bank accounts on July 14.

From that date, a first instalment of £326 will start to be paid out to low-income households on benefits. The second portion of the one-off £650 payment will follow in the autumn.

Households will get a £400 discount on energy bills and pensioners will also receive a £300 payment in November/December alongside the winter fuel payment, while £150 will be paid by September to individuals receiving disability benefits.

Mr McNab added: “The Chancellor’s recent announcement of support, meaning the most vulnerable and low income families will receive £1,200, was significant, direct and targeted and this report shows just how desperately it was needed.

“However, we are working with people who have been struggling for months and have already found themselves with much higher costs and in much higher debt than the support being offered.”

He said: “Many people still face destitution in the months ahead, prices are still rising rapidly and sadly this crisis is far from over.”

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