Personal debt is rising
Policymakers must prioritise support for those struggling amid the cost-of-living crisis, a leading charity has warned.
It comes as Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) reveals the impact across of hardship across the charity’s network of advice centres.
Its monthly data report found that demand for advice around Crisis Grants from the Scottish Welfare Fund had increased by 37% in the year to December 2023.
Advice relating to debt rose by 4% from December 2022 to December 2023, and across the same period advice in relation to debt to an energy supplier is up by 8%.
Previous research from Citizens Advice Scotland found that over 360,000 people in Scotland are worried about their debt to an energy supplier.
Meanwhile, there was a 50% increase in views of advice around Council Tax and an 11% increase in demand for online advice on benefits.
David Hilferty, CAS director of impact said: “These figures are really worrying because of what they represent, the long-lasting impact of the cost-of-living crisis is going to be one legacy of debt, destitution and increasing demand on essential services like CABs and the Extra Help Unit.
Increasingly our network is acting as a backstop for failures in the energy market or welfare state to adequately protect people on the lowest incomes.
“The stark increase in crisis grant advice shows that many people simply can’t make it to the end of the month covering their essential costs. In many cases a sense of financial crisis is now the new normal.
“The impact is increasing numbers of people in debt and facing additional outgoings to pay that back or risk it getting worse.
“What’s more, December is historically a quieter month for advice demand due public holidays. Despite that, CABs helped more people with more issues compared to last December with over 18,000 people getting advice across 70,000 issues.
“So the picture here is clear - increasing numbers of people are turning up to a CAB in either debt or in crisis – or both.”