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Skipping meals and feeling trapped: charity clients’ pandemic experiences

Vicky Shaw, PA Personal Finance Correspondent
·2-min read

More than a third of people with debt problems have sacrificed meals because they could not afford to eat, according to a charity.

Debt counselling charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) said 37% of clients had sacrificed meals before they got help with their debts.

Over a quarter (28%) had considered or attempted suicide before seeking debt help.

And more than half (58%) had felt trapped in poverty before they got help.

The findings were released as the charity launched its annual client report.

The average CAP client household income, after housing costs, sits at just £12,845, the charity said.

The two main reasons stated for people falling into debt were low income (20%) and mental health issues (18%).

Young people were the least likely age group to seek help despite them being among the hardest hit during the coronavirus pandemic. Only 8% of CAP clients in 2020 were aged between 18 and 25.

A former CAP client from Colchester said: “My husband and I worked for the same company and we were both made redundant. After the redundancy the debts started building; rent arrears, council tax arrears, doorstep loans, catalogue loans.

“We were missing meals four or five nights a week so that the kids could have dinner. I didn’t want to go out, I couldn’t speak to anyone on the phone. It was a horrendous time.”

Christians Against Poverty helped more than 16,000 people in 2020.

CAP’s CEO, Paula Stringer said: “Our latest report gives just a glimpse of how much the Covid-19 pandemic has affected people’s lives. I believe there are millions more families in debt across the UK still suffering in silence.”

She added: “Despite all the challenges of the last year, we want everyone to know there is hope. There are charities out there who can offer free, expert help out of debt.

“Getting debt help can quickly relieve the pressure, ease the strain on people’s mental health and help them get their lives back on track.”