Fall in number of Scots worried about paying bills, survey suggests

The proportion of Scots concerned about paying bills fell last month in comparison with earlier in the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey.

A ScotPulse poll for Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) found more than a third of people (36%) said they were concerned about their incomes during Covid-19, down from 41% in April.

The survey is the third of three rounds of polling being conducted during the pandemic, with the latest questioning 997 people between May 7 and 18.

  • 24% of people concerned about utility bills, down from 31% in April
  • 26% concerned about rent, down from 31%
  • 21% concerned about mortgage payments, down from 27%
  • 27% concerned about debt repayments, down from 31%
  • 23% concerned about paying for food and essentials, down from 27%
  • 22% concerned about making council tax payments, down from 29%

CAS said this latest poll suggests measures implemented by the UK and Scottish governments have had some success in addressing financial concerns.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on May 12 that the UK Government’s furlough scheme would be extended until October.

On May 13, Nicola Sturgeon said she planned to ease lockdown restrictions, with a date for lifting the measures announced on May 18.

The latest poll found 24% of people are concerned about utility bills, down from 31% in April; 26% are concerned about rent, down from 31%; 21% are concerned about mortgage payments, down from 27%; 27% are concerned about debt repayments, down from 31%; 23% are concerned about paying for food and essentials, down from 27%, and 22% concerned about making council tax payments, down from 29%.

CAS chief executive Derek Mitchell said: “This small decline must still be understood in the context of significant amounts of people facing financial insecurity.

“Over a third of people being concerned about their income should set alarm bells ringing, especially as we look ahead to lockdown being eased and certain support measures being tapered off.”

He said while coronavirus did not cause the problem of financial insecurity it “certainly exacerbated it and there is a real risk it is aggravated further in the months ahead”.

He added: “For our part, the Citizens Advice network in Scotland remains here to help people during this crisis.

“Our bureaux have transitioned to remote working to help people over the phone or by email, and our online advice pages have seen unprecedented levels of demand during this time.

“We’ll make sure people get the advice they need, when they need it.”

Mark Diffley, founder and director of Mark Diffley Consultancy and Research, which undertook the polling, said the survey shows financial concern “is not spread evenly across the population and continues to fall disproportionately on those in the most financially disadvantaged situation”.

He added: “It is also noticeable that there has been some uptick in the proportion of people applying for financial help, for example with Universal Credit, council tax reductions and mortgage holidays and this may be contributing to the decline in levels of financial concern.”

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