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One third of people worried about incomes during COVID-19

A third of people in Scotland are concerned about their incomes during COVID-19, a new poll for Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) reveals.

Thirty six per cent of people are concerned about their income amidst the COVID-19 outbreak according to a ScotPulse survey for the charity carried out in May. The equivalent figure for April was forty one per cent.

The third wave of polling to be carried out on behalf of the charity during the pandemic reveals that, while there has been a slight fall in concern around personal finances, there are still significant groups of people in the country worried about their finances.

The polling tracks people concerns about key bills including:

-       24% of people concerned about utility bills, down from 31% in April
-       26% concerned about rent, down from 31% in April
-       21% concerned about mortgage payments, down from 27%
-       27% concerned about debt repayments, down from 31%
-       23% concerned about paying for food and essentials, down from 27%
-       22% concerned about making council tax payments, down from 29% in April

CAS said the figures showed that the support schemes implemented by the UK and Scottish Governments, such as the furlough scheme, increased Universal Credit and Council Tax Reduction have had an impact in addressing financial concerns for some, but it was important policy makers do not lose sight of the significant numbers of people still facing financial insecurity.

CAS Chief Executive Derek Mitchell said:

“On a surface level this polling suggests that measures implemented by the UK and Scottish Governments have had some success in addressing the financial concerns of some people during the pandemic.

“This small decline must still be understood in the context of significant amounts of people facing financial insecurity.

“Over a third of people being concerned about their income should set alarm bells ringing, especially as we look ahead to lockdown being eased and certain support measures being tapered off.

“The issue of people facing financial insecurity has been a serious problem that our network has seen across the country for some time now. Coronavirus didn’t introduce this issue but it certainly exacerbated it, and there is a real risk it is aggravated further in the months ahead.

“It’s absolutely essential that policy makers put maximising incomes and minimising the cost of living at the heart of any economic response to coronavirus.

“For our part, the Citizens Advice network in Scotland remains here to help people during this crisis. Our bureaux have transitioned to remote working to help people over the phone or by email, and our online advice pages have seen unprecedented levels of demand during this time. We’ll make sure people get the advice they need, when they need it.”
Mark Diffley, Founder and Director of Mark Diffley Consultancy and Research, which undertook the polling said:

“The third wave in our time series of polls conducted since the pandemic started in Scotland allows us to take a longer term view of the financial impact it is having across Scotland.

“It is certainly positive levels of concern around all the financial issues covered in the surveys have declined since lockdown began; for example concern about paying utility bills has fallen from 35% in late March to 24%, while concern for paying for food and essentials has fallen from 34% to 23% over the same period. However, as we have observed throughout, the financial concern is not spread evenly across the population and continues to fall disproportionately on those in the most financially disadvantaged situation.

“For example, 31% of those in the C2,D and E social grades are concerned about paying for utility bills compared to 21% in the A, B and C1 social grades; similarly with paying for food and essentials there is a significant gap with 30% of those in C2, D and E expressing concern compared to 19% of those in A, B and C1.

“It is also noticeable that there has been some uptick in the proportion of people applying for financial help, for example with Universal Credit, Council Tax Reductions and mortgage holidays and this may be contributing to the decline in levels of financial concern. Future polling will continue to measure how the country copes with the ongoing pandemic.”

The full details of the Scotpulse survey are here.