Citizens Advice Scotland have backed the findings of a new survey which shows that 70% of UK families are living ‘on the edge of poverty’.
The survey of 2,000 families, published today by Netmums, also finds that 61% are short of money every single week, and 76% are eating poor quality food.
Citizens Advice Scotland’s Head of Policy, Susan McPhee said:
“This is a bleak picture, but sadly it’s one we in the CAB Service recognise all too well. Scotland’s CAB advisers see case after case of such families, who are living from hand to mouth and really struggling just to pay the weekly bills and stay afloat. Over the last few years prices have risen steadily, while household incomes have fallen. It doesn’t take an economic genius to work out that this will leave people short.
“This NetMums survey does a really good job of getting behind the statistics and showing the bitter human reality of the recession – a reality which CAB advisers see every day. These are real people we are talking about. People who are having to choose between heating or eating; parents who regularly go without food themselves in order to put dinner on the table for their children; families who have had to turn to loan sharks just to keep their home for another month.
“Many of the families we’re talking about are living on benefits. And when people talk about cutting benefits, they need to understand the impact it has on such families – it’s the children who will be pushed into poverty as well as the adults. It’s one thing to target cases of benefit fraud. But despite all the publicity they get, these are a tiny minority of benefit claimants, and the current welfare reforms are so drastic they are really hurting everyone – including those who are genuinely in need and entitled to help. That’s why these poverty figures are so high, and it’s the children and the most vulnerable adults who suffer most.”
Over two thirds of cases brought to Scottish CAB Service now are related to financial problems. Between them, cases related to debt and the benefits system made up 62% of all our cases last year. Over the last few years we have had to train more specialist Money Advisers."
Susan McPhee says it’s important that people know that free financial advice is available for those who need it. She says:
“If you are struggling like this, you should make an appointment with your local CAB. They won’t judge or criticise you. They will sit you down, calmly talk you through all your finances and come up with a plan to help you. Every case is different, but there are always routes forward. For example, they may be able to identify income you are entitled to but haven’t been claiming. Or they may be able to help manage your debts by negotiating with your creditors, freezing interest charges etc.
“Remember too that all CAB advice is free, impartial and confidential. We are of course severely over-stretched, and we won’t always be able to see you right away. But just by making an appointment you will be taking a step towards getting the expert help you need. Your local CAB is listed in the phone book, or can be found at www.cas.org.uk”
For more information, interviews etc please contact Tony Hutson on 0131 550 1010 or 07774 751655.
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
The NETMUMS survey is no longer available.
It includes the following findings:
- More than six out of 10 families (61 per cent) are short of money EVERY week.
- Two in five families need an extra £20 a week to get by, a third (33 per cent) need £50 and one in 10 families would need an extra £100 each week to make ends meet.
- A further 15 per cent said they were 'desperate' with debts piling up. And one in 33 claimed to be 'suicidal' and 'unable to cope'.
- Almost a third (30 per cent) have borrowed money from friends and family, a quarter (24 per cent) are living on credit cards and one in 20 have taken out a bank loan to fund everyday living.
- One in seven (15 per cent) has taken on a new job to bring in extra money.
- Five per cent are taking regular payday loans and digging themselves deeper into debt - while one in 100 has been forced to use illegal lenders and loan sharks.
- Three out of four families (76 per cent) are eating cheaper, poor quality food to save cash.