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Public support cancelling household debts built up during the pandemic, new poll finds

THE public overwhelmingly support bold government action to write off household debts that have been built up during the pandemic, polling by the anti-poverty group Jubilee Debt Campaign revealed today.

Debt cancellation could help households reset their finances and avoid a long-Covid debt-crisis holding back the economic recovery, the group said.

The poll found that 43 per cent of the general public supported measures to cancel household debts, compared with just 20 per cent who opposed them.

It also warned that people in debt could be hit hard by the cut to universal credit which came into effect on Wednesday, with one in 10 people in debt already unable to afford food during the pandemic.

And 41 per cent of people in debt reported feeling more worried about their debts than before the pandemic.

Jubilee Debt Campaign executive director Heidi Chow said that indebted households are facing a perfect storm of benefit cuts, furlough withdrawal, increased National Insurance contributions and soaring energy bills.

She said: “It’s no wonder there is increased anxiety about having to take on even more debt to cope.

“These findings should raise alarm bells that mounting numbers of households face spiralling debt as Covid support measures are withdrawn.”

Ms Chow said that the government’s “levelling up” plans must include taking steps to write off unavoidable household debts.

Lorraine Bow from London said that her debt has forced her to cut back on essentials.

“I lost 90 per cent of my income and had to take a loan,” she said.

“I’ve been given an extra month to try to fix my income. That’s simply not possible.”

Yesmin from Tower Hamlets in east London, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, said her son got into over £1,500-worth of rent debt during the pandemic.

She said that he was already in low-paid work and when he was furloughed, he was not earning enough to cover the basics.

“Now the debt has been passed to debt collectors who are chasing him and the council have told him that if he doesn’t pay soon, he will be evicted,” Yesmin said.

“The stress that he has been under these past few months is having a severe impact on his physical and mental health. I believe a debt write off for my son would genuinely extend his life.”


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