Cost of living impacting clients
In the first two months of 2022, Advice NI’s Debt service has already dealt with over £3.5 million of debt. It is concerning that the average household debt of our clients is currently £3,727.24, an increase of 21% since the same period in 2021.
Following a lengthy period of forbearance due to Covid-19, lenders have commenced recovery procedures on outstanding debts. This action in conjunction with the current cost of living crisis, has significantly increased the financial pressure on households in Northern Ireland.
According to the latest Consumer Council information, the average cost of diesel is currently 174.2 pence per litre, and 163.3 pence per litre for petrol. In January and February, Advice NI debt clients reported their average expenditure on diesel/petrol at just over £96 per month higher than in the same period last year. Advice NI have also experienced an increase in referrals from utility companies, with clients struggling to keep up with the cost of electricity on low household budgets.
One client was referred to Advice NI’s debt service as he was single, in receipt of benefits and struggling to manage his increasing electricity costs, which were in excess of £50 per month. He also had credit card and catalogue debts of £9,000 and was struggling to maintain payments. The client was provided with support and guidance to apply for a Debt Relief Order, enabling the debt to be written off and greatly reducing the financial pressure he was under. Our debt adviser also provided the client with advice on budgeting and expenditure reduction, as well as ensuring the client was referred for a benefits check and an energy payment support scheme check, and signposted to NEA for advice on energy saving grants and energy efficiency advice.
‘The advice and support I received from my debt adviser has really helped me, and I feel relieved that some of the pressure I felt has been lifted’