On August 14th, a chilling news report was released by a local paper in the Midlands. It was a story that brought to light not only the extent of the problems that some people find themselves in, but just how many people were affected. A problem that does not discriminate between age groups, employment status, ethnic background, religion or what football team they followed. This problem was household debt.
The Coventry Telegraph’s headline said it all. ‘Struggling Coventry Families Revealed to be £46m in Debt’, complete with an equally damning subheading of ‘Near 6,000 families in the city owe an average of £7,500, according to new figures’. It is the stuff of dystopian fiction, that such a huge amount of household debt was spread out across a comparatively low number of people. Families, pensioners, singletons – there was no demographic that can say their head is safely above water. And while the headline may make for a good shock factor, there are deeper issues at play here. This story could have realistically been found in any local publication from across the United Kingdom.
The figures of £46m and 6000 people, when unpacked, make for even worse reading. In terms of the whole of Coventry’s population, that is the equivalent to one in seven families being strapped with payments that they are struggling to meet. As many as 5835 families in the area have reported that they have fallen behind with a recent bill, repayment or credit arrangement according to a study released by a local charity. This figure could easily be much higher if those who have chosen not to seek help were accounted for.
The average figure of the debts, roughly at £7,500 each, are probably the most pressing. For those supporting a family, this is a crippling amount that is causing many children to be put at risk. The survey states that as many as one in six children in the city are affected by the problem. The families that have come forward account for almost 10,500 children, all of which are directly or indirectly affected by this wave of severe financial difficulty.
Debt is now the most common reason for people to seek help across the whole of Britain, and this is no different in Coventry. Whereas five years ago, it was largely considered that seeking advice regarding the claiming of benefits was the main reason many sought help, but the landscape has changed. Many people who were already struggling have been hit badly by one reform or another, along with the rising costs of food and heating. No family in modern Britain should have to make the choice between one and the other.
The people of Coventry are essentially a microcosm for the wider state of British society. Debt advice is becoming a service that is becoming more of a necessity as the months roll on, as many who have buried their heads in the sand simply cannot continue to do so. In the West Midlands alone there are a number of towns with similar problems. In Nuneaton, 2,745 families (or 22 per cent of the overall population) are strapped with average debts of over £10,500. There are similar figures in North Warwickshire, Stratford, Rugby, Kenilworth, Southam and Leamington. The whole region is in trouble, and represents the plight of people across the country.
So what can we learn from all of this? We can learn, first and foremost, that if you find yourself in debt you are one of thousands and thousands across the country that is struggling financially. We can learn that with the right help and support, people’s problems generally get smaller rather than continue to snowball into the insurmountable. We can learn that nobody needs to feel alone and isolated because of debt.
If you find yourself affected by debt, contact Council Tax Advisors today and take the first steps towards a better future.