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“Government need to get a grip on scale of household debt”, Citizens Advice responds to National Audit Office report

On 21 August, Citizens Advice released research estimating households across the UK owe an estimated £18.9 billion to essential service providers and government.

Since 2014, problems with household bill debts have overtaken consumer credit as the key money problem people bring to the charity. Of the people we helped with household bill debt last year, almost 1 in 3 people (34%) also had a mental health problem.

Household bill debt issues were twice as likely to be related to the way debts are collected than consumer credit debt issues (29% compared to 15%). 42,000 people came to Citizens Advice with 90,000 (89,622) issues in the last year.

In response to the NAO’s report, Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“The finger is now being firmly pointed at government to get a grip on the scale of household debt. No one has a clear picture of this and we know people we help with these problems tend to be in a more precarious financial position than those with consumer credit debts.

“Unless the government starts to collect and report annually on the level of household debt, it will be impossible for them to even begin addressing the problems that result from people’s financial difficulties.

“Daily, we see the impact that falling behind on essential bills has on people and the NAO’s findings around this are concerning.

“The NAO is also right to say the government is lagging behind industry by persisting with poor collection practices. Our evidence shows aggressive tactics by bailiffs cause huge distress and can even push people further into debt. There needs to be an independent bailiff regulator to address this broken system.”

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