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Citizens Advice enquiries soar as record numbers of Brits seek financial help

By Elliot Wright, 24th February 2010

Record numbers of Brits are seeking help with their debt, benefit, employment and housing problems, as the impact of the recession shows no signs of abating.

In the last three months of 2009, 1.7m people contacted Citizens Advice Bureaux across the country in need of financial advice, a 20% increase on the same period the previous year.

New figures released by the Citizens Advice show that their offices in England and Wales are dealing with 9,500 new debt problems and 8,200 new benefit problems every working day.

Debt problems soared by 24% and enquiries about welfare benefits leapt by 22% in a year. This comes on top of earlier sharp increases seen since the start of the recession in April 2008.

Since that time, CAB advisers have helped at least 3.25m people with 11m problems - over 5% of the entire UK population.

Citizens Advice are dealing with 9,500 new debt problems and 8,200 new benefit problems every working day.

The latest figures show that many people are still struggling to keep their heads above water and pay essential household bills, relying on overdrafts and credit cards to meet day-to-day living costs.

For example, enquiries about fuel and water debts are up by 32% and 27% respectively, phone debts are up 30%, there has been a 25% increase in problems with rent arrears to private landlords, council tax debts are up by 18% and overdraft problems have soared by 25%.

Meanwhile, enquiries about job seekers allowance were up by a third and mortgage arrears problems were up by 14%, although in both cases the rate of increase has slowed after peaking at the start of 2009.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive David Harker said: "These figures give a stark insight into the human cost of the recession, coming as they do on top of what were already record-breaking enquiry figures for the previous three months.

"We may officially be in recovery, but for many people the damage done by the economic downturn is long-lasting and far from over. Even more people are now worried about the further pressures on their household budgets from rising prices and exceptionally high winter fuel bills.

"The demand for CAB services is at an all time high and our advisers have never been so busy. Our frontline advice services will continue to play a vital role in helping millions of people weather the worst effects of the recession for as long as it takes."

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