Almost 11m people are struggling to keep up with their bills – but help is available


Almost 11 million people are battling to keep up with bills and credit repayments, new figures have revealed.

Around one in five adults have found financial commitments to be a heavy burden from the start of the year, according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The number of people struggling soared from 7.8 million last May to 10.9 million in January this year, the data showed.

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Meanwhile, an extra 1.4 million people have missed loan or bill payments – rising from 4.2 million in May 2022 to 5.6 million at the start of this year.

The FCA released the figures after assessing more than 5,000 responses to its UK-wide Financial Lives survey of people aged 18 and above.

The research also laid bare the devastating impact the cost of living crisis is having on the population’s mental health.

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Around 28.4 million people described feeling more anxious and stressed in January this year compared with six months earlier because of the tough economic climate.

More than a quarter – 28% – said they had lost sleep over money worries.

People revealed the measures they had taken to stay afloat – with one woman resorting to using credit to cover food shopping, home insurance and car repairs.

Another spent all her savings to fill her oil tank, which she relies on to heat her home.

One mum decided to take her son off her motor insurance while another woman stopped seeing her family as much due to the cost of driving long distances to see them.

Some 11% of those surveyed admitted to putting off financial matters – ignoring warning notices and leaving letters unopened.

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Making cutbacks

The research also found 29% of people with a mortgage and 34% of renters had faced payment increases in the six months up to January this year.

Some 6.2 million who had insurance and protection policies last May cancelled or reduced their cover by the start of 2023.

Meanwhile a separate survey conducted in April by HSBC found 78% of people in the UK are proactively looking for ways to lower their outgoings.

Almost half of the 2,100 quizzed by the banking giant said they had slashed non-essential spending – while about 40% said they were sticking to tighter budgets.

Some 45% said they wanted to reduce their grocery bills by shopping at a cheaper supermarket.

Meanwhile HSBC UK said customers have typically cancelled more than 200,000 subscriptions each month on its mobile banking app.

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Help is available

The FCA’s executive director of consumers and competition, Sheldon Mills, said: “Our research highlights the real impact the rising cost of living is having on people’s ability to keep up with their bills.”

The regulator has advised lenders to provide tailored support to people who are struggling, he said, adding: “We will continue to act quickly to make sure financial firms help their customers who are facing financial difficulty or are worried they might be soon.”

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HSBC’s head of wealth and personal banking, Jose Carvalho, said: “The increased cost of living is taking its toll on many people, but our research shows people are doing the right thing by taking action to get a grip on some of their discretionary spending.”

The bank is offering free financial health checks and webinars to offer personalised guidance to both customers and non-customers.

People can also visit the government-backed MoneyHelper which offers free, impartial help and advice.

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