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The coronavirus personal debt crisis

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StepChange commissioned national polling in September 2020 to understand how coronavirus has affected personal finances six months into the pandemic in the UK.

The government and regulators have taken unprecedented steps to put in place support since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK in March, but we found that a personal debt crisis is emerging.

Here, you can find some of the key findings from our latest research:

Number one

Millions face a financial crisis

2.5 million people are facing a financial crisis due to the impacts of coronavirus. The number of people whose income has been affected negatively by coronavirus in severe problem debt has nearly doubled since the beginning of the outbreak to 1.2 million people.

2.5 million people are at risk of financial crisis due to coronavirus
Number 2

5.6 million struggling to afford essentials

The number of those affected who have fallen behind on essentials or borrowed to make ends meet has increased from 4.6 to 5.6 million. We estimate that the amount of arrears and borrowing among this group attributable to the impact of coronavirus is £10.3 billion.

590,000 people have fallen into rent arrears
Number three

Coping strategies are making matters worse

One in three (33%) of those affected has borrowed to make ends meet, which may delay problems now but increases the likelihood of more severe debt problems later.

Financially ruined quote
Number 4

Financial difficulty is becoming harmful

17% of those who financial situation has been negatively impacted by coronavirus have experienced one or more forms of hardship since March, including going without meals and rationing basic utilities.

Skipping meals

We are calling for the following measures:

  1. The government and regulators should extend and strengthen protections against collections activity, enforcement action and eviction for those experiencing financial difficulty during the pandemic
  2. The government should put in place a more effective safety net for those experiencing financial difficulty by ensuring households have sufficient income to make ends meet and expanding local emergency support 
  3. The government should consider making available recovery funding to support those affected by coronavirus and struggling with financial difficulty to address arrears and debt safely

Want more information?

For further demographic and debt information, please read the full report.

Download the report

Or email us to discuss our coronavirus personal debt statistics and other debt research across the UK.