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Fixing cost and debt worries needs more than ‘sticking-plaster solutions’

To stop financial hardship growing this winter Citizens Advice is asking government to improve support for people on the breadline. While welcome, ‘sticking-plaster solutions’ such as supplementing the Warm Homes Discount won’t be enough.

That was the stark message from the charity’s September public cost-of-living briefing last week.

Ministers should consider additional ways of regulating the supply of essential home services which are now unaffordable for many households:

  • impose on regulated utilities a consistent policy for social tariffs
  • reform benefit deductions which can cut universal credit payments at source by 25% or more
  • unfreeze local housing allowance to make private rentals viable again
  • enact the Rental Reform Bill to begin to make rents fairer and tenants more secure.

Citizens Advice provides national policymakers with a mass of real time data about clients and issues in England Wales. A single statistic encapsulated the present need for action; in 2021 one third of clients with debt problems had a negative budget (essential outgoings exceeded their income); in 2023 half were in that unhappy position.

Local data tell a similar story. When we compared June/July/August 2023 with 2022 we found CAEE advisers helped clients with 30% more debt-related issues.

To coincide with the September cost of living briefing Citizens Advice published a detailed account of latest data and recent research. Forbiddingly entitled Debt time bomb: countdown to a household debt disaster it sets out why everything that can be done must be done to stop the situation getting worse.

Sign up for the next Citizens Advice online Cost of Living Briefing, 10 October.

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