Half of Scottish adults are struggling to keep up with essential bills

A new poll of the UK population, conducted by YouGov for StepChange Debt Charity, has revealed that 43% of the UK population, including 48% of Scottish adults – more than 2 million people – have found it difficult to keep up with household bills and credit commitments in the last few months. One in ten (10%) say they have found it very difficult.

With the rising price of living costs putting a strain on household finances, the new polling shows that almost one in five (18%) Scottish adults have borrowed to pay for essential household bills and utilities in the past 12 months.

The proportion of people falling behind on financial commitments is growing, with 14% of Scottish adults saying they were behind on at least one household bill in January.

Overall, the cost of living crisis has led people to feel much less financially secure. Only one in fourteen (7%) Scottish adults said their financial situation was more secure now compared to a year ago. Almost half of Scottish adults (46%) mentioned that their financial situation is less secure now compared to this time last year.

Considering the widening proportion of people struggling to maintain payment of ongoing bills and credit commitments, StepChange Scotland says the Scottish and UK Governments, alongside creditors, must take a supportive approach toward dealing with this crisis by prioritising engaging with and helping people in financial difficulty over punitive enforcement action.

Sharon Bell, Head of StepChange Debt Charity Scotland, said: “Over the past 12 months, people’s financial resilience has taken hit after hit as the cost of living continues to weigh heavily on their finances. It’s particularly worrying to see more people borrowing to cover essentials, which puts them at risk of getting trapped in a long-term debt spiral. This will be particularly hard to climb out of considering inflationary pressures.

“Recent attention on forced installations of prepayment meters (PPMs) led to Ofgem bringing in a suspension of this practice, which was welcome, but there remains more to be done to support the thousands of households struggling with energy bills. We’ve seen in our own client data how high energy arrears are, so there must be a change in suppliers’ approach to collecting energy debt, which prevents customers on PPMs from self-disconnecting or drastically rationing energy.

“Ultimately firms should be proactively identifying and engaging with customers who may be in financial difficulty, offering them practical support such as affordable payment plans and information about any hardship funds or grants they may be eligible for.

“With the energy price guarantee increasing from April, the Scottish and UK Governments must consider how this will impact low-income households who may already be struggling or in arrears with not just energy bills, but other household bills or housing costs.”