Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) in England and Wales have seen large and rising increases in debt, employment and benefits related enquiries over the last year, the annual Citizens Advice parliamentary reception will be told today.
Debt remained the biggest volume of enquiries for the service with 1.93 million new debt problems advised on by bureaux, an 11% increase on 2007/8. Total employment related problems saw a 17% increase compared to last year and benefits enquiries were up 13%. Over the year the service enquiries saw:
114% increase relating to redundancy (83,024 new enquiries in 2008/9 compared to 38,745 in 2007/8)
61% increase relating to Job Seekers Allowance (109,407 new enquiries in 2008/9 compared to 68,052 in 2007/8)
49% increase relating to mortgage and secured loan arrears (95,342 new enquiries in 2008/9 compared to 64,053 in 2007/8)
24% increase relating to bankruptcy (137,406 new enquiries in 2008/9 compared to 110,819 in 2007/8)
19% increase relating to fuel debt (82,891 new enquiries in 2008/9 compared to 69,378 in 2007/8)
15% increase relating to Council Tax arrears (137,551 new enquiries in 2008/9 compared to 119,795 in 2007/8)
Enquiry figures showed a sharp spike at the start of 2009, with debt enquiries 21% higher in Jan – Mar 2009 compared to Jan – March 2008 and enquiries about redundancy 179% higher than the same period last year.
A recent profile of CAB clients revealed that CAB debt clients owe an average of £16,971, an amount it would take an average of 93 years to pay off at a rate they can afford. The most common reasons for debt were low income, over-commitment, illness or disability and job loss. But irresponsible lending, poor financial skills and increases in the cost of living had also played a significant part in people’s debt problems.