Figures released today by the Citizens Advice Bureaux shows that problems with mortgage arrears have shot up by 35% in the first two months of 2008 compared to the same period in 2007.
It says more people are seeking help because they are having problems paying their essential household bills, such as gas and electricity, water, telephone and council tax debts.
A survey of almost three-quarters, 73%, of all Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales reported that it dealt with 215,000 new debt problems in the first two months of 2008 alone.
The new figures reflect recent increases in the cost of living and suggest a growing number of people are having difficulty paying essential household bills. Debts relating to credit, store and charge cards still remain the largest category of debt. Unusually for the time of year, credit card debt problems were down by 9%, while problems with overdrafts were up almost 7% on the same period of the previous year.
Teresa Perchard, director of policy for Citizens Advice says: “It is a worrying trend that our bureaux are reporting a very sharp increase in the number of mortgage arrears problems they are dealing with. These latest figures paint a worrying picture, suggesting a significant number of households are struggling to meet their most basic living costs. The combination of big increases in household bills, especially fuel, and rising housing costs is putting additional pressure on people’s finances when they are already stretched to the limit.”
In the financial year 2006/2007 Citizens Advice Bureaux dealt with 5.7 million new problems, more than 1.7 million of which concerned debt. Debt is now the number one issue advised on in bureaux, accounting for nearly one in three of all enquiries, and CAB advisers around the country are dealing with over 6,600 debt problems every working day. The Citizens Advice Bureau network is the largest single provider of free, independent and expert debt advice in the UK.