Citizens Advice is urging people who are worried that they are running into debt to seek help as soon as possible.
The consequences of falling behind on basic bills like rent, council tax or energy bills can be serious. In extreme cases, nonpayment of rent can lead to eviction, energy debts can result in your power being cut off, and not paying council tax can lead to a prison sentence.
Citizens Advice is seeing an increasing number of people seeking help because they can’t make their incomes stretch to cover essential bills. Low pay and slow wage growth have left many people struggling to pay for rent, energy supplies and council tax.
It can be very difficult to cut back on these costs, but there is action you can take to get your finances back on track. If you are worried about debt, come to Citizens Advice for help as soon as you become aware that there is a problem. Problems only get worse if they aren’t tackled early.
Top tips on dealing with debt
1. Dealing with debt problems is easier when the debt is small, so take action before the figures start to spiral out of control.
2. Don’t take out more credit or a loan to cover your debts.
3. Look carefully at your spending. Is there anything you can cut down on? Draw up a realistic budget.
4. Do talk to your creditors and let them know you are having problems.
5. Don’t pay off the creditor who is shouting the loudest but first pay the most important bills, like mortgage or rent, council tax, and gas and electricity. Otherwise you will be in danger of losing your home, having your gas and electricity cut off, or ending up in court.
6. Don’t ignore court papers.
7. Citizens Advice gives free, independent and confidential advice. They will help you work out repayments and negotiate with your creditors, and also help you keep out of debt in the future. A CAB adviser can check and see if you are missing out on benefits, tax credits and other help to which you might be entitled, and can help you make a claim.
For further help, call Adviceline on 03444 111 444 or drop in to your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau, which is located at 32 Market Place, Henley-on-Thames RG9 2AH. For opening hours, see www.caox.org.uk