New financial support package for households needed, says Citizens Advice

A fresh package of support measures is needed to prevent households placed under tougher coronavirus restrictions from sinking further into debt, according to Citizens Advice.

The charity said the enforcement of council tax arrears should be paused in Tier 3 areas in England.

It said councils should also be given extra funding to support those who are behind, which should be prioritised in areas entering a Tier 3 lockdown.

Citizens Advice also wants to see a national programme of Government-backed grants and loans for private sector tenants struggling to pay their rent because of the pandemic.

Tier 3 areas should be prioritised for new grants, it said.

Jamie McGlynn, local service manager at Citizens Advice Manchester, said: “Now that many of the protections have been lifted, we’re seeing a surge in people contacting us for help as bailiffs, debt letters and eviction notices start up again.

“Added to that, there have been a lot of redundancies announced in recent weeks and many people we help are working reduced hours because of the impact of the first lockdown.”

Recent research from Citizens Advice suggested significant numbers of people risk being pushed into a position where they cannot pay their essential bills and could face spiralling debts if the uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit is not extended beyond April 2021.

Blanket protections have been in place during the pandemic to help those with consumer debts such as personal loans and overdrafts who are struggling financially due to coronavirus.

After the end of October, there will be a shift towards a more tailored approach by lenders to help those who continue to struggle financially, or face fresh problems.

Dame Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Many of the protections that the Government and regulators rightly put in place for people struggling with bills have ended or are running out.

“But lifting these protections was founded on the prediction that household finances would improve as the UK left lockdown.

“For many in the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions, this will now simply not happen.

“Some regulators, like Ofgem, have been proactive in strengthening protections as we enter what is likely to be a hard winter for many.

“In other sectors, help for people living in the areas of strictest lockdown is confusing, inconsistent and, in some areas, inadequate.

“As more parts of the country move into the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions, a renewed package of protections and support is vital to keep people living there from falling into further debt.”