The excesses of festive spending will have left many people dreading the January bills.
For those already struggling financially, the aftermath of the Christmas celebrations only adds to their financial woes and, according to a YouGov survey, household budgets are at breaking point, suggesting that many people will start the new year concerned about keeping their homes.
The survey reveals that families are the worst affected, with more than 70 per cent of rent or mortgage-payers with children currently struggling or falling behind with their payments.
Now homeless charity Shelter is warning that many people feeling overwhelmed by money worries will put off overdue bills until it is too late, putting their homes at even greater risk.
The findings revealed a worrying trend of people unable to face up to their financial difficulties, with nearly one-in-five saying they haven’t opened post if they thought it was a bill or late payment reminder.
A spokesman for debt support charity Christians Against Poverty, based in Bradford, says: “The research from Shelter is really interesting. Crucially, it is one in 11 Brits fearing rent or mortgage crisis. Our debt clients tell us that fear is a huge factor as they cope with too little money to cover their outgoings. In our own research, 64 per cent of people calling us for help feared losing their home and it’s that kind of stress that causes ill health, sleepless nights and relationship problems.
“There is also a significant fear about asking for help. It’s hard to know who to trust and what it will involve. I think people also hope that their situation will change and that they’ll come up with something, but debts are very hard to escape for the individual.
“Debt agencies like ours are negotiating with the same creditors all day long, so it is easier for us. The best advice is do something, call CAP or Stepchange, National Debtline or Citizens Advice. Don’t pay for debt help – all the above are free and trusted.”
Christians Against Poverty runs free money management sessions at venues across the Bradford district.
These are aimed at helping to get household budgets back into the black. Visit capmoney course.org for details.
Juli Thompson, project co-ordinator for Inn Churches, a network supporting the homeless and vulnerable by providing accommodation in Bradford churches over the winter months, says they have seen several people who have either lost or are at risk of losing their homes or who have been illegally evicted.
“Many people are living in fear of heating their homes due to cost. I am coming across couples who have been evicted for non-payment of rent – illegally evicted,” she says.
Juli says Inn Churches is working with an organisation called Warm Homes Healthy People to provide food parcels, bedding and clothing to those in need and they have also collected items through Bradford-based organisations Unltd and Participate. Feversham College in Bradford has decorated and packed 50 ‘gift boxes’ including £200 worth of toiletries donated by Robertson’s Pharmacy and Opticians in OtleyRoad, for the Inn Churches project, and donations have also been collected for St Augustine’s Foodbank.
Shelter’s advisers regularly see cases where people don’t ask for help until they reach crisis point. As it gets tougher to pay all the bills, people often feel overwhelmed and unsure where to turn.
Liz Clare, a helpline adviser at Shelter, says: “We’re now seeing a stream of cases of families who’ve been unable to cope with mounting rent or mortgage bills and feel at breaking point.
“We hear from people every day who are struggling. Our message to anyone struggling to pay their rent or mortgage is that we’re on your side. Come to us for help early on for the best chance of keeping your home.”
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, says: “It’s a worrying sign of the times that so many are starting the New Year worried about how they’ll pay their rent or mortgage in 2014. Unless they get help, some of the families struggling now could face the very real prospect of losing their home this year.
For more advice, visit www.shelter.org.uk/advice.