The number of families in debt has tripled during the pandemic, an anti-poverty charity has revealed.

At least one in three low-income households are in arrears with at least one bill, according to work done by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The JRF says almost 3.8 million households with incomes of less than £24,752 are in some form of arrears with rent and bills. It also found that 4.4 million have had to borrow more or go into debt just to survive.

Among those households, representing the UK’s poorest 40%, it found 33% were in arrears, up from 11% in a similar study before Covid hit.

Katie Schmuecker of the JRF said: “There is a debt crisis hanging over millions of families on low incomes.

“Behind these figures are parents gripped by anxiety, wondering how they will put food on their children’s plates and pay the gas bill; young people forced to rely on friends to help cover their rent and avoid eviction.

“While many households on higher incomes have enjoyed increased savings and rising house prices during the pandemic, people on low incomes are under serious financial pressure that shows no sign of abating.”

She called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to use October 27’s Budget to reinstate the £20-a-week Universal Credit cut.

“We know the Chancellor is capable of taking bold action to protect people from harm when it is required,” she added.

The hardest-hit were 18 to 24-year-olds, the JRF found, with 71% in arrears.

Other groups hit particularly hard included families with children – 55%.

London households (55%), those with someone under 45 answering the survey (56%) and Black, Asian and minority ethnic households (58%) were also disproportionately affected.

Most of the households now behind on their household bills – 87% – said they had always or often been able to pay bills on time before the pandemic.

The JRF added: “Many families on low incomes are still reeling from the huge £20-per-week cut to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit. Energy bills and other costs are continuing to rise, with the price of energy projected to soar further in the coming months.”

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “These findings are a storm warning.

“Millions of families look very precarious as we sail into even rougher seas.”

Read More Read More